India’s space agency ISRO says Monday's test flight of a reusable space shuttle went off without a hitch and its success has validated the technologies on board.
ISRO also released video of the launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, at Sriharikota, north of Chennai, showing the ignition and lift-off of the HS9 booster rocket with the shuttle rinding on its nose.
The $14m Reusable Launch Vehicle, or RLV-TD, which is around the size of a minibus, was lifted to an altitude of 65km before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, exposing it to temperatures of up to 2,000C, ISRO said.
"RLV-TD began its descent followed by atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound)," the agency said in a statement.
It said the vehicle's thermal coating, navigation, guidance and control systems performed as planned and accurately steered the shuttle.
"After successfully surviving the high temperatures of re-entry, RLV-TD successfully glided down to the defined landing spot over Bay of Bengal, at a distance of about 450km from Sriharikota," it said.
The shuttle was brought in to land on the sea becuase India doesn't have a long enough runway to allow it to come down on the land, and a soft sea landing was considered the best way of recovering the craft.
"The wings are very small, so it’s still going to be a very huge challenge to land it on a runway and therefore we are landing it straight back on the ocean," Rajeswari P Rajagopalan, the head of the independent think-tank Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, told Al Jazeera.
The 13-minute test mission was an important step towards developing a full-scale, reusable shuttle to send up satellites and, once proven, could also be used to deliver astronauts into space.
At later stages of development, ISRO plans to build a supersonic scramjet engine into the shuttle which would give the craft an effective range and the ability to manoeuvre in space.
"At the end of the day, the mission's objective is to reduce the cost of space launches, for human space missions as well," says Rajagopalan.
India's shuttle is not expected to come into service for at least 15 years, but ISRO hopes the reusable technology will reduce costs and make access to space more affordable.
Source: Al Jazeera