Excited to create India's own space shuttle: ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar

ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar said that the objective of Reusable Launch Vehicle is to lower the cost of access to space.

ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar said that the objective of Reusable Launch Vehicle is to lower the cost of access to space.
By Pallava Bagla

NEW DELHI: Weather and wind speeds permitting, an almost 11-ton rocket will lift off from rocket port Sriharikota tomorrow morning -- the first time India is launching an indigenous Reusable Launch Vehicle.

In an interview, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Kiran Kumar explains the importance of the experimental Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), which is essentially an attempt by India to bring down the cost of making infrastructure in space.

If reusable rockets become a reality, the cost of access to space may come down by 10 times.

Excerpts of the interview:

What is this RLV, or the Indian space shuttle?
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Kiran Kumar: See, the RLV is a mechanism for us to bring down the cost of launch. We intend to go through a series of technology demonstration exercises, first one of it, what we call HEX-01, that is a hypersonic experiment. It is called a winged body.

Therefore, we are designing for the first time a winged body, which will come back from space. It will be carried up on a solid rocket motor. In addition, this is the first of a series of experiments and we still have a long way to go till we reach the actual RLV, which will give us a tremendous capacity in terms of launching at a very low cost.

So essentially you will be launching from Sriharikota, and the RLV will land it somewhere in the Bay of Bengal?
Kiran Kumar:
Yes, the first experiment is like that, we will be launching from Sriharikota, and the plane like winged body will land in the ocean, in the Bay of Bengal. That is the first one, but then ultimately, the objective will be this winged body will come and land on the Sriharikota island.

So you will make a kind of a runway like one used to see for American space shuttles. So will we witness similar kinds of vehicles landing in Sriharikota in future?
Kiran Kumar: Yes, ultimately, when it comes to the final stage, that is what will happen. This winged body will come back on to the land at Sriharikota.
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Why is India indulging in this when the whole world has retired, nobody is attempting winged flights in a big way, why is ISRO going into this RLV technology?
Kiran Kumar:
No, ultimately our objective is to lower cost of access to space. We still believe that we have a very good opportunity to go through this research and achieve a significant reduction in the cost of the launch.

So making satellites cheaper for average users?
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Kiran Kumar: Yes, not only the satellites cheaper, but also all the space infrastructure what we have to build for various activities, our ability significantly increases because the overall cost comes down.

So this launch of RLV, are you excited by it?
Kiran Kumar:
Definitely we are excited by that, because there is a new set of activities which we are doing in terms of the aerodynamics, winged body, we have gone through a series of wind tunnel tests, and then there are a lot of new design approaches in this, and it also gives a tremendous amount of challenge to the designers and the engineers in the organisation. Moreover, when the end result is going to be to bring down the cost of launch, we are all excited about that.

So pushing the frontier, is that what the reason?
Kiran Kumar:
Yes, definitely, it is pushing the frontier. And one needs to keep challenging the people within ISRO for achieving better results in this particular case, the better result is: how to bring down the cost of launch.

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