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New Indian Spaceplane Makes Its First Successful Flight

All eyes may be on big US groups like SpaceX and Blue Origin when it comes to developing reusable spacecraft, but they are far from the only efforts that are bearing fruit in the field. India’s Space Research Organization have a lot to celebrate now, having successfully launched and retrieved their Space Shuttle-like RLV-TD, a prototype reusable spacecraft of a far different style to SpaceX and the like.

Launching at 9:00am local time, the craft made a successful take-off before ascending 43 miles into the air, at which point it began its descent, gliding down to make a smooth landing in the Bay of Bengal. This is a promising show from a country not often thought of as being a major player in space development, however, the RLV-TB has one minor flaw that may limit its use in carrying both people and cargo, for now, its size.

Coming in at a tiny seven metres, the craft is simply a scale model, used as a proof-of-concept to test the design, prior to the agency committing to a full construction of the craft. The reason they used a scale model while others are already retrieving full-sized rockets is down to the budget. Their five-year reusable shuttle plan is restricted to a budget of only $14 million, which is tiny compared to the cost of a single one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable craft.

The success of this craft on a budget that many would consider impossible really shows just how low-budget smarts can stand up to high-budget developments by taking a more considered and research-focused approach instead of large practical experiments. It may just be a scale model for now, but a full-size version of the design is sure to be in the works following this success and it will be interesting to see whether this craft will mark India as a space power like the US and Russia.

Alexander Neil

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