Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) “Pushpak”

News Excerpt: 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has reached a significant milestone in reusable launch vehicle technology with the successful landing experiment of the RLV LEX-02. 

Key Points:

  • The RLV LEX-02 mission demonstrated the autonomous landing capability of the reusable launch vehicle from challenging initial conditions after release from a helicopter.
  • The experiment, conducted at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka.
  • It marks a crucial step forward in the development of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs).

About Pushpak: 

  • The Pushpak RLV is designed as an all-rocket, fully reusable single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle, incorporating several major elements such as the X-33 advanced technology demonstrator.
    • The X-34 testbed technology demonstrator, and the upgraded DC-XA flight demonstrator.
  • Pushpak demonstrated autonomous landing capability from off-nominal initial conditions at release from a helicopter.
  • It performed difficult maneuvers with dispersions, correcting both cross-range and downrange to precisely land on the runway.
  • Pushpak was released from a height of 4.5 km by an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter, and it autonomously approached the runway from a distance of 4 km.
  • The mission successfully simulated the approach and high-speed landing conditions of an RLV returning from space.
  • The endeavor to launch RLV requires several state-of-the-art technologies. That also includes accurate navigation hardware and software, a Pseudolite system, Ka-band Radar Altimeter, NavIC receiver, indigenous Landing Gear, Aerofoil honey-comb fins, and brake parachute system.
  • The winged vehicle and all flight systems used in RLV-LEX-01 were reused in the RLV-LEX-02 mission after proper certification/clearances, demonstrating the reuse capability of flight hardware and flight systems.
    • Based on observations from RLV-LEX-01, the airframe structure and landing gear were strengthened to tolerate higher landing loads.
  • The mission was accomplished by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Liquid Propulsion System Centre (LPSC), and ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), with collaboration from various agencies including the Indian Air Force (IAF), Aeronautical Development 

What is RLV?

  • An RLV is a vehicle that is launched into space many times. As the vehicle can be used for many relaunches, it goes a long way in mitigating costs.
  • The idea of a re-usable landing vehicle was mooted to regain super expensive rocket boosters that are used for launching spacecraft. It could be later used to refuel and reuse in space flights.

How are RLV LEX-01 and RLV LEX-02 similar to and different from each other?

  • The flight systems and the wing body used in the first leg of RLV LEX were reused for RLV LEX-02. 
  • After evaluating the results of the first experiment, ISRO made some improvements such as strengthening the airframe structure and landing gear so that Pushpak can tolerate higher landing loads during RLV LEX-02. 
  • The difference between RLV LEX-01 and RLV LEX-02 is that in the first leg of the autonomous landing mission, Pushpak was released mid-air after certain predetermined conditions were achieved. Meanwhile, for RLV LEX-02, Pushpak was subject to off-nominal conditions.
  • Therefore, not only did ISRO successfully accomplish the autonomous landing of a reusable launch vehicle prototype, but also demonstrated reuse capabilities of flight hardware and flight systems.

Book A Free Counseling Session