RLV-TD, Indian experimental space plane already on May !

According to latest news RLV, prototype of new Indian space plane, will be tested in May 2016.

RLV-TD (Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator) is Indian technology demonstrator created as independent ISRO project of future space plane started in late nineties. Its general shape is based on aerodynamic conception similar to Space Shuttle. Indian space plane will be probably smaller but still it will utilize lifting body. It will also have different rear stabilizer. Space Shuttle was equipped only with single rear vertical stabilizer; RLV will be equipped with double vertical stabilizers. Goal of the program is creating space plane able to deliver to orbit payload with fraction of present costs; possible future price for 1 Kg delivered to orbit will be even $500. First phase of testing RLV-TD was finished with test of supersonic combustion in 2006. After four years, in 2010 ISRO launched ATV-D01 (Advanced Technology Vehicle) rocket for further test of passive scramjet engine combustor which was installed on atop of the rocket. In 2012 ISRO announced that next phase of the project will be RLV-TD. It was announced that  weigh of the technology demonstrator would be around 1500 kg and will be used for following test flights: HEX which stands for Hypersonic Flight Experiment, LEX (Landing Experiment)), return flight (REX (Return Flight Experiment)) and scramjet test during flights (SPEX (Scramjet Propulsion Experiment)).

According to The New Indian Express ISRO is going to perform HEX flight already in May 2016. Mission was planned for mid-2015 but was delayed to April 2016 when it was postponed again. Now it is quite sure that first Indian space plane will start its maiden flight on 23rd May, 2016. P Kunhikrishanan, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR), Sriharikota in interview given to The New Indian Express announced that all parts of the RLV-TD are at the moment (on May 7, 2016) in Satish Dhawan Space Center and integration process already begun. Along with official NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) warning for airspace around Satish Dhawan announced on May 14, 2016, which covers period from 21st May 2016 until 27th May 2016, gave arguments for supposition that time of the launch is closing. Recently, in Indian newspaper "The Times of India" some details about flight were unveiled, including launch date. Start will take place on 23rd May at 09:30 local time (04:00 GMT). RLV-TD will weight around 1700 kg (what is 200 kg more than previously announced) and will be long for 6.5 m with assumed wingspan around 4 m to 5 m. It will be launched on atop of S9 solid fueled booster which is originally used as one of the six boosters supporting PSLV in C version. It is fueled with 8.92 t of HTPB; it weighs 10.93 t, its height is 10 m with 1 m of diameter and thrust generated by engine is at 510 kN. It was not unveiled how RLV-TD will be integrated with S9 but probably due the small diameter of the booster it will not be covered with fairing and propulsion will be modified to perform longer flight with lower acceleration. After liftoff, S9 will reach altitude of 30 km after around 90 seconds what is necessary time to reduce dynamic pressure to meet demands of HEX flight; on this altitude speed should be at least 6 Ma (ISRO would like to perform test with at speed fitting in range 6 Ma to 10 Ma) to achieve hypersonic flight. After next 18 km of flight, S9 will separate from RLV-TD; it will reach altitude of 70 km gradually moving to vertical flight. Next it will perform reentry with angle around 20° to 45° and crash in the waters of Bay of Bengal. Whole flight will last for 10 minutes but during this short time ISRO will test aerodynamics of the RLV-TD in hypersonic flight, level of induced electric loads during flight in atmosphere, strength of carbon fiber utilized for manufacturing nose cone of the RLV, resistance and efficiency of heat shields, technology utilized for separating from first stage and procedures of recovering RLV by Indian Navy and Coast Guard from the sea.

ISRO seriously plans future development of RLV-TD with constructing new 5 km runway in Satish Dhawan Space Center and claims that space plane will be ready after 10 to 15 years of further research and development process.