The Indian space agency ISRO is preparing for the first flight of its Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) from the Sriharikota launch complex. Launch is reportedly scheduled for 23rd May, weather permitting. The Indian-designed vehicle is a 1/6th scale model of the space shuttle that the agency hopes to build in 10-15 years' time. Carried by an HS9 solid stage, it measures 6.5m in length and weighs 1,750kg.
The vehicle is scheduled to make a suborbital flight reaching a maximum altitude of 70km. Since there is no available runway in India of adequate length (more than 5km), the RLV-TD will splash down in the Bay of Bengal after making a controlled descent. Vehicle recovery will probably not be possible. Three further tests are currently planned.
ISRO describes the RLV-TD programme as a series of technology demonstration missions considered as a first step towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully re-usable vehicle. The winged demonstrator vehicle has been configured to act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies — hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.