Tag Archives: test flight

India’s new spaceplane makes a successful test flight

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is pretty serious about building a credible space program.  After already positioning themselves favorably in the competitive international launch business, they’ve already accomplished the remarkable feat of placing a spacecraft in orbit around another planet — one of only a handful of nations to do so.  Now they’re working towards reusable spaceflight, and also manned spaceflight by setting out on one of the holy grails of human spaceflight: the reusable orbital spaceplane that takes off and lands on a runway.  No one has yet come particularly close; the Space Shuttle is by far the most successful spaceplane, but it launched as a two-stage rocket and was only partially reusable.  Venturestar sought to become a single-stage-to-orbit fully reusable rocketplane, but was cancelled.  X-37 is a fully reusable spaceplane, but cannot launch itself and requires an expendable booster to carry it to orbit.  (Or the Space Shuttle.  It was originally envisioned as fitting into a Shuttle’s payload bay.)

As the first major step on this rather long path, ISRO has built and launched a scale model spaceplane very similar in appearance to the X-37.  Called the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator, it launched early today from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre atop a solid-propellant ATV sounding rocket, an unusually heavy sounding rocket built by ISRO largely for projects such as this one.  It accelerated the automonous spaceplane to at least Mach 5, reaching a maximum altitude of 65 km and a downrange distance of 450 km before making what was apparently a surprisingly well controlled bellyflop into the Bay of Bengal.  (The test article was not intended to be recoverable, as it survival was considered dubious.  But it will have recoverable successors.)  It carried out tests of the heatshield technology, guidance, flight control, and navigation systems.  It did not reach the Karman Line and thus is not a true spaceflight, but it was not intended to be; this is a subscale test to validate the basic design before proceeding to higher energies.

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First Angara test flight is a success!

The suborbital test flight was a complete success.  The rocket has been in development since the early 90s, when the nascent Russian Federation realized it needed a completely domestic rocket (no Ukrainian components) that could be launched from within Russia (and not Kazakhstan) in case the former Soviet republics were no longer friendly and which would not use hazardous UDMH/N2O4 propellants (unlike Proton).  But it almost immediately faced insurmountable budget challenges, slowing development to a snail’s pace.  But a dedicated team of engineers kept plugging along and now they’ve got the funding to finish it.

SpaceflightNow has pictures of the flight

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SpaceX releases a new F9R test flight video!

With the next Falcon 9 launch now delayed into July thanks to a lousy weather forecast, SpaceX has tossed us a separate tidbit from June 17: a test flight of the F9R (Falcon 9 Reusable, the successor to the Grasshopper test article) at their McGregor, TX facility.  This was the first flight with a set of deployable fins to aid in flight control, and it was fully successful. At 2:20, the flight is repeated from a ground camera — watch especially for the stampede in the foreground.  😉  Notice also that they’ve transitioned to using the same legs that are flying on the actual Falcon 9 launch vehicles; once they start flying to higher altitudes out in New Mexico, they plan to start launching with legs folded and deploying just before touchdown.  Essentially, this is no longer a test article but an actual Falcon 9 first stage.

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