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Indian Space Agency Breaks New Ground with Autonomous Launch Vehicle Landing

Indian Space Agency Breaks New Ground with Autonomous Launch Vehicle Landing.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved a major milestone in its pursuit of developing a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) with the successful demonstration of the autonomous landing capability of its launch vehicle under challenging conditions. This is the third consecutive success in the Reusable Launch Vehicle Landing Experiment, with the latest test, LEX-03, being the most challenging yet.

The experiment, conducted at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) in Chitradurga, Karnataka, involved the release of a winged vehicle, named ‘Pushpak’, from an Indian Air Force Chinook Helicopter at an altitude of 4.5 km. Pushpak then autonomously executed cross-range correction manoeuvres, approached the runway, and performed a precise horizontal landing at the runway centreline. This feat was accomplished despite the vehicle’s low lift-to-drag ratio aerodynamic configuration, which resulted in a landing velocity exceeding 320 kmph, significantly higher than commercial aircraft and typical fighter aircraft.

ISRO stated that after touchdown, the vehicle velocity was reduced to nearly 100 kmph using its brake parachute, followed by the employment of landing gear brakes for deceleration and stop on the runway. During the ground roll phase, Pushpak utilised its rudder and nose wheel steering system to autonomously maintain a stable and precise ground roll along the runway.

Indian Space Agency Breaks New Ground with Autonomous Launch Vehicle Landing

The success of RLV LEX-03 is significant as it re-demonstrates the autonomous landing capability of the RLV under more challenging release conditions, including a cross-range of 500 m, which is twice that of the previous test. Additionally, the experiment simulated high-speed landing conditions, further pushing the limits of the vehicle’s performance.

ISRO’s expertise in acquiring the most critical technologies required for the development of a Reusable Launch Vehicle has been reaffirmed with this successful demonstration. The development of a RLV has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of space operations and enhance the efficiency of the space program. With this achievement, ISRO has taken a significant step towards advancing its capabilities in this area.

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