ISRO Hypersonic RLV Test Set

Artist's conception of Indian reusable vehicles (Credit: ISRO)
Artist’s conception of Indian reusable vehicles (Credit: ISRO)

ISRO is planning a flight test in its Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program (RLV-TD) in the April to June time frame.

“Technology Demonstrator winged body vehicle weighing 1.5T will be lofted to a height of 70 km using solid booster, thus attaining five times the speed of sound. Thereafter, it will descend by gliding and splashing down into the sea”, said an official statement.

This test flight would demonstrate the Hypersonic aerodynamics characteristics, Avionics system, Thermal protection system, Control system and Mission management.

“Development of Reusable Launch Vehicles is a technical challenge and it involves development of many cutting edge technologies. The magnitude of cost reduction depends on development and realization of fully reusable launch vehicle and its degree of reusability”, said the statement.

ISRO describes the program on its website as follows:

Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program or RLV-TD is a series of technology demonstration missions that have been considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle. A Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.

These technologies will be developed in phases through a series of experimental flights. The first in the series of experimental flights is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX). Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator Hypersonic Experiment (RLV-TD HEX1) wherein the hypersonic aero-thermo dynamic characterization of winged re-entry body along with autonomous mission management to land at a specified location and characterization of hot structures are planned to be demonstrated.

 

A Closer Look at Blue Origin’s Expanded Testing in West Texas

Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The FAA recently approved Blue Origin’s application to expand operations at its West Texas test site “to include new development vehicles, which would use liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants.”

The supplemental environmental assessment was required because of a shift in propellants used in flight tests. The FAA conducted an earlier review in 2006 when it originally approved the testing of reusable propulsion modules and crew capsules (CCs) at the site.

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DARPA Wants Space Plane With Aircraft-like Operations

Artist's conception of an X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)
Artist’s conception of an XS-1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)

WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 17, 2013, DARPA PR) — Commercial, civilian and military satellites provide crucial real-time information essential to providing strategic national security advantages to the United States. The current generation of satellite launch vehicles, however, is expensive to operate, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight. Moreover, U.S. launch vehicles fly only a few times each year and normally require scheduling years in advance, making it extremely difficult to deploy satellites without lengthy pre-planning. Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations.

To help address these challenges, DARPA has established the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The program aims to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space. The vehicle is envisioned to operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. This setup would enable routine daily operations and flights from a wide range of locations. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, while demonstrating technology for next-generation space and hypersonic flight for both government and commercial users.

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Elon Musk Tweets on Chinese Space Ambitions, Catherine the Great’s Horse

Musk is referring to an urban legend — apparently spread by cheese-eating, upper-class French surrender monkeys — that Catherine was crushed to death while trying to make love to a stallion. (In reality, she died in bed of a stroke at age 67.)

Although his choice of Twitter topics is odd, Musk’s selection of reading material is not. Massie is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs.

Oh, I see he also made some comments about the Chinese and the state of rocketry which seem reasonable enough and I’m sure have no connection to his other topic.

FAA Assessment Clears Way for SpaceX Grasshopper Tests

SpaceX's test site in McGregor, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX)

An FAA environmental assessment has given the OK for SpaceX to test its Grasshopper reusable launch vehicle at its site in McGregor, Texas. The RLV is designed to test technologies needed to fully recover Falcon 9 stages for reuse.

After reviewing and analyzing currently available data and information on existing conditions and the potential impacts of the Proposed Action, the FAA has determined that issuing an experimental permit to SpaceX for operation of the Grasshopper RLV at the McGregor test site would not significantly impact the quality of the human environment. Therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not required, and the FAA is issuing this FONSI. The FAA made this determination in accordance with all applicable environmental laws. The Final EA is incorporated by reference in this FONSI….

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FAA COMSTAC Presentations Online

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The FAA has posted presentations given at this week’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee meeting. I haven’t had time to parse them yet, but take a look if you are interested.

Operationally Responsive Space (MS PowerPoint) — Dr. Peter Wegner

2009 COMSTAC Commercial GSO Demand Forecast (MS PowerPoint) — Kevin Reyes

2009 Commercial Space Transportation Non-GEO Forecast (MS PowerPoint) — Ken Davidian

Risk Management Working Group Report — Christopher Kunstadter

Export Controls Working Group Report (MS PowerPoint) — Michael N. Gold

Reusable Launch Vehicles Working Group Report (MS PowerPoint) — Bretton Alexander

Space Transportation Operations
(MS PowerPoint) — Robert Davis


RLVs: The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

The Simple Truth about Reusable Launchers Is Not So Simple
Space Daily

There are several key factors that have retarded progress in this area. An ideal RLV would be: a single stage vehicle; inexpensive to operate and able to be turned around quickly. Thanks to NASA’s failed billion-dollar experience trying to build a scaled down technology demonstrator, the X-33, we can say that single-stage RLVs are beyond the current state of technology. The fundamental reason has to do with the energy needed to achieve orbit and the lack of a propulsion system that can deliver the required vehicle velocity at a high enough efficiency.

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India, China, Rocket Racing and Mortgage Defaults

The Space Review has a gaggle of interesting pieces about commercial space:

Taylor Dinerman warns the commercial space industry not to follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over a cliff.

John Jurist believes RLVs have a role as commercial suborbital sounding rockets.

Jeff Foust looks at the accomplishments of the Rocket Racing League, which has yet to actually race anything.

Dwayne Day examines the Indian and Chinese human spaceflight efforts to posit what the future might hold.

Claude Lafleur argues that the search for life, and worlds that can sustain it, is a worthy alternative to expensive human spaceflight programs that are difficult to sustain.