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First Test Flight Of India’s Space Plane Demonstrator Delayed Again

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) might be delaying the first test flight of the experimental Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) spaceplane. The sub-orbital spacecraft that is unmanned, similar to the US Air Force’s X-37B, was slated to be launched in February 2016, however, the current rising of technical difficulties might delay the test till the first week of April.

There was a minor leak in the flight systems of the RLV-TD that might be leading up to the probability of a potential setback. K. Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) – craft is being built over here – has said that the spacecraft had to be reassembled and this could cause quite a delay if any more problems occur.

It is a two-stage scaled prototype of India’s Avatar spacecraft that has been designed to reduce the cost of payload’s launching into orbit from $5,000 per kilogram to $500. RLV-TD is a winged technology demonstrator that was aimed at testing flight and propulsion system, which will enable the completed Avatar to return to Earth for a controlled landing.

A series of flights have been slated to check the RLV-TD’s capability of executing hypersonic flight, landings, scramjet propulsion and return flight before a full-size vehicle is constructed. The demonstrator shall be lifting off via conventional rocket booster that will bring its speed up to Mach 5. Once separated, the winged craft will coast up to an altitude of almost 100 km before it executes a controlled re-entry.

The flight surfaces will be in charge when the atmosphere is thick enough and the RLV-TD will glide to the recovery area in Bay of Bengal for a splashdown. The sea recovery is crucial since the spaceplane requires a 5 km long runway – something that India doesn’t possess currently.

This delay would be the third in the program that was slated to launch in mid-2015.