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General Studies 3 >> Science & Technology

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1. Context
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully demonstrated the landing of the Pushpak reusable launch vehicle for the third time on Sunday, bringing it one step closer to using the vehicle for an orbital mission
2.What is a reusable launch vehicle (RLV)?

A reusable launch vehicle (RLV) is a type of spacecraft designed to be launched, recovered, and then launched again multiple times. The primary advantage of RLVs over traditional expendable launch vehicles (ELVs) is their potential to significantly reduce the cost of access to space by reusing major components of the vehicle.

Here are key features and concepts associated with RLVs:

  • The main distinguishing feature of RLVs is their ability to be used for multiple missions, reducing the cost per launch by spreading the vehicle's development and production costs over many flights
  •  RLVs can come in various designs, including single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) and multi-stage configurations. Multi-stage RLVs can have stages that are all reusable or a combination of reusable and expendable stages
  • Effective RLVs are designed for rapid turnaround, meaning they can be refurbished and prepared for another flight in a short amount of time. This involves quick maintenance, inspection, and refueling processes
  • RLVs employ various methods for recovery and landing. These include vertical landing (such as SpaceX's Falcon 9), horizontal landing on runways (like the Space Shuttle), and sometimes splashdown in the ocean
  • Developing RLVs involves addressing numerous technical challenges, such as thermal protection systems for re-entry, lightweight but durable structures, and efficient propulsion systems that can be reused multiple times without significant degradation
  • The ability to reuse launch vehicles has the potential to lower the cost of access to space, making space exploration and satellite deployment more affordable.
  • This can lead to increased commercial activity in space, including satellite launches, space tourism, and interplanetary missions
3. What is the RLV Landing EXperiment (LEX)?
The RLV Landing Experiment (RLV-LEX) is a program initiated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to demonstrate and validate the technologies required for a reusable launch vehicle. The goal of the RLV-LEX is to develop and test a winged reusable launch vehicle that can perform autonomous landing operations, similar to an aircraft.
Here are key aspects of the RLV-LEX program:
  • The primary objective is to demonstrate key technologies needed for a reusable launch vehicle, including autonomous landing, aerodynamic control, and thermal protection.
  • By developing reusable technologies, ISRO aims to reduce the cost of access to space, making it more affordable for various missions
  • The program provides ISRO with valuable experience in designing, testing, and operating reusable vehicles, which can be applied to future missions
  • The RLV-LEX vehicle has a winged configuration, allowing it to glide and land horizontally on a runway, much like an airplane
  • The vehicle is designed to perform autonomous landing maneuvers, using onboard systems to control descent and touchdown
  • To withstand the high temperatures during re-entry, the RLV is equipped with a robust thermal protection system
  • Advanced navigation, guidance, and control systems are integrated to ensure precise and safe landing.
4. Puspak Reusable Launch Vehicle
  • The landing experiment took place this morning at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka. According to an ISRO tweet on the social media platform X, the RLV LEX-03 (Reusable Launch Vehicle Landing Experiment 3) successfully demonstrated its autonomous landing capability under harsher wind conditions. The Chinook helicopter released the Reusable Launch Vehicle Pushpak from an altitude of 4.5 kilometers.
  • Following its aerial release, Pushpak autonomously performed cross-range correction maneuvers, approached the runway, and achieved a precise horizontal landing on the runway centerline.
  • Pushpak approached the runway at a speed of 320 km/h, which is higher than the typical 280 km/h speed of fighter aircraft due to its low lift-to-drag ratio aerodynamic design. Upon touchdown, Pushpak's speed was reduced to nearly 100 km/h with the help of its brake parachute, after which the landing gear brakes were applied to bring it to a complete stop on the runway.
  • Pushpak utilized its rudder and nose wheel steering system to autonomously maintain a stable and accurate ground roll along the runway. According to ISRO, this experiment has reaffirmed its capability to acquire critical technologies for developing a reusable launch vehicle, which will reduce launch costs and advance space exploration in the coming years.
  • Pushpak employed multi-sensory fusion, incorporating an inertial sensor, radar altimeter, flush air data system, Pseudolite system, and NavIC navigation system
For Prelims: Current events of national and international importance
For Mains: GS-III: Awareness in the field of Space
Previous Year Questions

1.With reference to India’s satellite launch vehicles, consider the following statements: (UPSC CSE 2018)

1. PSLVs launch the satellites useful for Earth resources monitoring whereas GSLVs are designed mainly to launch communication satellites.

2. Satellites launched by PSLV appear to remain permanently fixed in the same position in the sky, as viewed from a particular location on Earth.

3. GSLV Mk III is a four-staged launch vehicle with the first and third stages using solid rocket motors; and the second and fourth stages using liquid rocket engines.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 2 only

(d) 3 only

 Answer (a)
Source: Indianexpress

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