ISRO’s Shocking Breakthrough: Reusable Launch Vehicle Set for Historic Final RLV Landing Experiment

ISRO’s Pushpak prototype has already been very successful in the previous two missions. In LEX-03 mission, Pushpak will be lifted to a height of 4.5 kilometres and positioned 500 meters to one side of the runway before being released
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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is poised to take a significant step forward in its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) programme with the third and final landing experiment (RLV LEX). The mission aims to further ISRO’s efforts towards developing cost-effective and efficient space travel technologies.

Mission Readiness Review (MRR) was held on Friday in which it was given the green light for the mission, scheduled for the first half of June. The test will be conducted at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, weather permitting, as sources within the organisation, as per a report by The Hindu.

Scaling Up the Challenge
The RLV-LEX missions involve releasing an unmanned winged prototype, named Pushpak, from a designated height to land safely under various conditions.

In the upcoming LEX-03 mission, Pushpak will be lifted to a height of 4.5 kilometres and positioned 500 meters to one side of the runway using an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter before being released. This is an increase from the LEX-02 mission, where the lateral distance was 150 meters.

The goal of LEX-03 is for Pushpak to autonomously approach the runway, manoeuvring by making crossrange, downrange, and altitude corrections to ensure a safe touchdown. The mission will also focus on reducing the sink rate to minimize the impact load during landing. Additionally, Pushpak will be equipped with a real-time kinematics (RTK) package to enhance its navigational accuracy. Handling tailwind conditions will be another critical challenge for this mission.

Future Plans and Developments
Following the successful completion of the RLV-LEX series, ISRO plans to proceed with the next stage of tests under the RLV-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) programme. This phase will involve an unmanned Orbital Re-entry Vehicle (ORV) that is 1.6 times the size of Pushpak used in the LEX missions. The ORV will be placed in a 400-kilometer orbit around Earth using a modified Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The upcoming ORV mission, expected within the next two years, will conduct various in-orbit experiments. The vehicle will feature a thermal protection system to ensure safe re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and a retractable landing gear.

Previous achievements in this regard
ISRO has already demonstrated success with the first two LEX missions. The LEX-01 mission was successfully conducted on April 2, 2023, followed by LEX-02 on March 22, 2024. These missions have laid the groundwork for the more advanced and challenging LEX-03 mission.

As ISRO moves forward with these pioneering experiments, the successful development of reusable launch vehicles promises to significantly reduce the cost of space missions, making space more accessible and sustainable for future explorations and applications.

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