One Small Step For ISRO, One Giant Leap for India


isro spacecraft

You wouldn’t think much of this unassuming hangar close to a fishing village in Kerala, but more than 600 scientists have worked relentlessly in there to help India reach one of its most extraordinary milestones in terms of space exploration.

It is where India’s very own space shuttle – dubbed the Re-usable Launch Vehicle (RLV) – was planned and developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO.

More than a decade has passed at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram since the project was initiated in the country’s biggest rocket designing and fabrication laboratory.

Not many people got to lay their eyes on the 6.5 meter-long futuristic spacecraft. The scale model of the re-usable launch spacecraft is no less than 1.75 tons. However, this scaled down replica is tiny compared to the final space shuttle, which is supposed to be 40 meters.

Before the end product is created and assembled for takeoff around 2030, ISRO plans to test two more technology demonstrators, prototypes that will help scientists better prepare for that major event.

Shyam Mohan, the RLV’s Project Director, told the press the team has clocked in endless hours over the years to make sure that all systems work seamlessly. Mr. Mohan, 53, has spent some three decades at ISRO; half of that time has been dedicated to designing the RLV for India.

“It was a dream come true as making a re-usable launch vehicle is a complex and challenging task,” he beamed proudly.

After 135 successful attempts, the Americans had to retire their space shuttle program in 2011 due to cost constraints; the Russians had only once chance in 1989. But India is boldly hoping it will go and succeed where other space agencies have tried and failed.

The director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, K Sivan, said that “these are just the first baby steps towards the big Hanuman leap.”

At 7 am today, May 23, 2016, the RLV spacecraft was successfully launched from Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, Andhra Pradesh. It was launched with a nine-ton solid rocket engine that can burn slowly to support the vertical lifting of a winged body.

On this first flight test, the RLV will not be recovered, but the team is anxiously awaiting data they can use to improve the designs and prepare the final model.
Image Source: The Hindu