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India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle 77

New submitter gubol123 writes with news that India is close to launching its own space shuttle for the first time. Their space program, ISRO, is planning the shuttle's first test flight for some time in July or August. The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered. When it lands in the water, it will sink, and there are no plans to try to bring it back to the surface. The most important obstacles are surviving re-entry and simply staying intact during splashdown. Scientists and ISRO engineers are hoping the shuttle program, when finished, will drop the cost of placing objects in orbit by a factor of 10.
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India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:05AM (#49749977)

    The term shuttle in murican terms is a piloted thing that lands under control. this seems more like a reusable space container?

    • A shuttle is generally accepted to be something that runs often, doing a job over and over, back and forth, time after time - the airport shuttle, the shuttlecock (more weaving than the sport) etc etc.

      So going by its intended use, this meets the naming criteria...

      • This vehicle is a low-cost testbed, which will be use to validate the technologies required to build a larger vehicle: the TSTO (Two-Stage To Orbit)

        http://www.globalsecurity.org/... [globalsecurity.org]

        http://antariksh-space.blogspo... [blogspot.ca]

        The eventual holy grail is to design, build and fly an SSTO (Single-Stage to Orbit) vehicle called AVATAR which would use scramjet technology. The scramjet-to-orbit concept is considerably more difficult, and may take much longer to accomplish.

        Meanwhile the TSTO would just use regular rockets (sem

    • this seems more like a reusable space container?

      Have to admit that's exactly the conclusion I came to when I did a double-take on "Isro's 1.5 [metric] tonne vehicle".

      To put this in perspective, that's about the same weight as the current Ford Mondeo [wikipedia.org] (AKA Ford Fusion in North America, apparently); i.e. a typical upper-midsize car by European standards, and lighter than the average American car(!) (*)

      (The NASA Space Shuttle orbiter alone is (according to Wikipedia) 78 tonnes when empty.)

      I might have dismissed that as a mistake, but the rest of the ar

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is a scaled down model used to test some of the shuttles capabilities. The real thing will be much bigger and will feature manned landing. Target date 2025.

      • I don't think that weight figure includes the FPV gear (from HobbyKing, where else?)...
    • by Sivaraj ( 34067 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @01:07PM (#49752439)

      ISRO never called it a shuttle. It has always been refered to as technology demonstrator (RLV-TD). Current experiment is termed RLV-TD HEX (Hypersonic flight Experiment). The ultimate aim is to develop an RLV named Avatar, which was originally announced over 17 years ago.

      This particluar test flight should not be compared to US space shuttle. Better comparison would be X-43A or X51-A Waverider. As these have defence applications, the projects had been running between NASA and DARPA. Similarly, India's Avatar programme has also been shuttling between ISRO and DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organization).

      The main feature of Avatar concept is an air breathing Scramjet engine. So far there hasn't been any great success in developing Scramjet engine. The longest one fired for 15 seconds on second flight of X-51A, while its first flight didn't run scramjet. India is nowhere near developing Scramjet in immediate future. But the current flight will test some preliminary technologies related to that project, specifically hypersonic reentry. I don't think this particular vehicle has any propulsion. Even the next two experiments planned on the series (LEX and REX) are planned without any rocket propulsion, but will use turbofan engine for landing. Actual powered flight would be on the SPEX, which will use Scramjet (Source: http://isp.justthe80.com/launc... [justthe80.com]

      Current test is a 100 crore INR (about 16 million USD) experiment. I am happy that ISRO is doing something to take this promising technology further. It may take another 20 years before actually seeing a scramjet engine in action, but that is ok. I would consider it as my tax money well spent.

      • I'm more interested in the TSTO, which is supposed to be built from technologies to be validated by RLV-TD. The TSTO will help to bring down cost-per-kg to orbit. Basically, it's a 2-stage launch vehicle based on a winged flyback booster. It won't be as efficient as the F9R, which doesn't carry the weight of wings, but it will be more capable of returning to launch site because of its glide path. No barge required.

    • The term shuttle in murican terms is a piloted thing that lands under control.

      So the STS wasn't a shuttle? (The "pilot"s job consisted of pressing the de-orbit button, then when close enough to the ground pressing the "wheels down" button).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:06AM (#49749983)

    The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered.

    How can it be called a Shuttle if it's only going to be used once?

    • by arielCo ( 995647 )

      Maybe this prototype won't be recovered, just like the Enterprise never reached space.

      • "How can it be called a Shuttle if it's only going to be used once?"
        It's a scaled prototype, Sheldon.

    • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:35AM (#49750191) Homepage

      The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered.

      How can it be called a Shuttle if it's only going to be used once?

      And while we are at it, since the beginning of "space" is generally accepted to be 100KM and this thing is only going up 70KM, the "space" part of its name is inaccurate too.

      But I guess "space shuttle" sounds better than "big can we're chucking high up into the air and then letting sink into the ocean".

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered.

        How can it be called a Shuttle if it's only going to be used once?

        And while we are at it, since the beginning of "space" is generally accepted to be 100KM and this thing is only going up 70KM, the "space" part of its name is inaccurate too.

        But I guess "space shuttle" sounds better than "big can we're chucking high up into the air and then letting sink into the ocean".

        India does things on the cheap. This is what happens when your engineers have degrees from the school of Kerbal Space Program. [kerbalspaceprogram.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if the X-37B [wikipedia.org] will be taking pictures?

  • Craft recovery? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegameiam ( 671961 ) <thegameiam@yahoo.c3.1415926om minus pi> on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:14AM (#49750035) Homepage

    I'm very surprised that they wouldn't be at least planning to recover the craft - that would give them all sorts of validation about the actual impact (heh) of launch and re-entry, and could help them get to the next iteration faster. I assume they know what they're doing, but TFA didn't include anything approaching a reason for not attempting recovery.

    • You can be sure USA will recover it, or Russia. I'm sure USA already recovered a Russian fighter to analyze it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't it be more cost effective to outlay a bit more initially so the darned thing can land on a runway, or at the very least just deploy some inflatables so it can float until recovered?

  • Factor of 10 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ckhorne ( 940312 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:19AM (#49750065)

    The original US Space Shuttle was also designed to reduce costs - It was hoped that it would be able to run 50 missions / yr (one per week!) and cost $50million/mission (in 2011 dollars). Instead, reality set in, and by the end, it was running only a few missions per year at a cost of around 1/2 Billion dollars each.

    The Space Shuttle, while a novel idea, simply wasn't the best design for getting into space - it introducing too many safety compromises. Granted, technology has vastly improved since the 1970's, when the Space Shuttle was designed, but that's mostly in the area of computing - material science hasn't changed nearly as much.

    I truly hope India does well with their program, but I do wonder if they're ignoring the mistakes made by the US when we went down this road.

    Also... 70km... They do realize this isn't planet Kerbin, right?

    • Re:Factor of 10 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:37AM (#49750213)

      The Rise and Fall of the Space Shuttle, Book Review: Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program by Pat Duggins, American Scientist, 2008, Vol. 96, No. 5, p. 32, estimates the average STS mission cost at $1.5Bn in adjusted USD.

      and Kerbin: funny, I was thinking exactly the same thing! The ISS suffers from atmospheric drag even at 250 miles up. KSP cutoff is shy of 70km, re-entry drag doesn't kick in until you hit 30km. I'd install a real atmosphere mod but I don't have 32GB RAM or a 5GHz processor.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      This is nothing like the America space shuttle. Probably closer to the secret US Airforce mini-shuttle. It's a small vehicle (1.5 tonnes) that goes up on a rocket and then re-enters and lands (eventually) like an aircraft. It won't carry people as it's much too small.

    • The costs for the shuttle program were pretty much fixed per year at $5B. The refurbishment of the SRB's and ET's were pretty cheap. If the Air Force didn't bail on the Shuttle a realistic flight rate would be once a month with 4 orbiters which would be about $400m per flight. With the existing infrastructure of 3 OPS's, 3 Bays in the VAB, Two Pads, 3 MLP's and 2 Crawlers you could have added another orbiter at about $1B to ramp up the rate. Also the infrastructure at Vandenburg was nearly finished and that

      • by Sivaraj ( 34067 )

        Get real man. Shuttle might have cost a bit higher due to politics, but it was never going to be cheap - just as SLS is not going to be cheap. Shuttle should have been abandoned at least in 1986 when they realised that they forgot to put a launch abort system on it.

        Over its lifetime, it has cost $209B. That is over $1.5B for each flight.

        Hmm... may be it will look cheaper by 2025 when you are spending over $10B on each launch of SLS (It is expected to cost $41B for 4 flights by that time). Hopefully someo

    • Re:Factor of 10 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:13AM (#49750647) Homepage
      A big part of the US shuttle program was that it was a compromise that had to do everything for everyone. For example, the initial plan was going to be fully reusable, but since they didn't have the money for that, it had to have the singe-use fuel tank. It also had to do orbital profiles for the military, such as being able to launch, release a single satellite and come down after making a single polar orbit. The plan was to Vandenberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_AFB_Space_Launch_Complex_6 [wikipedia.org] for the launch. The entire idea was a bit silly since the entire idea was to use it to launch spy satellites faster than the Soviets could shoot term down if the cold war got luke-warm (but somehow not becoming an outright hot war). It is possible that this was actually a cover for another orbital profile that hasn't yet been declassified. But the basic upshot is clear: the shuttle had to many different things for many different people, many who never even ended up using it for the desired purposes. If you make something that has to a hundred different things don't be surprised if is very expensive.
      • See F-4 and F-35 for proof of the principle. If you make something that has to a hundred different things don't be surprised if is very expensive.

        The US DoD will never learn. Build something for a single purpose you get it faster, cheaper and it is usually pretty good at the mission, see B-52, A-10, F-16 or F-15. Build it for a single mission then maybe modify it for additional missions afterwards

    • Well, if the success of Mangalyaan is any indication of things to come, cost reduction will not really be an issue.

      However we do need to compare apples to apples. ISRO might be trying to do something different with the shuttle altogether.

  • They seem to be having problems getting astronauts to man the thing.

    So a solid belief in reincarnation is now one of the job requirements.

    • They seem to be having problems getting astronauts to man the thing...

      ...sounds like the plot of a slumdog astronaut movie.

  • seems a bit wasteful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:31AM (#49750167)

    the US space program had one OV structural test vehicle and one airframe mockup. The test vehicle was refit for service (and became Challenger), the airframe mockup named Enterprise and sent to a museum. Enterprise never actually went into orbit. She was used for atmospheric glide and landing testing. Judging by the amount of money those two vehicles alone cost in construction (never mind development), which had to be a lot since Challenger's replacement, Endeavour, cost $1.7Bn and was built out of spare parts, it's great to see India's economy doing so well that it can afford to throw test articles into the sea and let them sink.

    • the US space program had one OV structural test vehicle and one airframe mockup. The test vehicle was refit for service (and became Challenger), the airframe mockup named Enterprise and sent to a museum. Enterprise never actually went into orbit. She was used for atmospheric glide and landing testing....

      There is also a Space Shuttle called Pathfinder on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, near Huntsville, AL. See http://rocketcenter.com/museum [rocketcenter.com], section Shuttle Park.

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        Pathfinder was a handling test article made of wood. IIRC it was built to similar weight and balance to a fuel-empty, unladen OV (75 tons?) but there's no way it'd fly. For starters, it doesn't have any control surfaces or even a fly-by-wire.

        FWIW, there's also a mockup (Independence, FKA Explorer) built using plans and blueprints by another company (not Boeing/Rockwell, who built the operational orbiters) being installed at Space Center Houston. It also weighs about the same as one of the operational vehicl

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    It's interesting how individuals care about their nations image, over anything else...

  • >> When it lands in the water, it will sink, and there are no plans to try to bring it back

    The outsourced coding joke just kind of writes itself, doesn't it?

  • 70 km (Score:4, Informative)

    by pahles ( 701275 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:52AM (#49750399)
    Re-entry from only 70 km isn't exactly re-entry. It hasn't even been in space at that height...
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:55AM (#49750433)

    The Karman line is 100km. This thing is a suborbital. It's not going to space.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K [wikipedia.org]ármán_line

    • This thing is a suborbital. It's not going to space.

      I don't think anyone is claiming it was going to.

      • by BigZee ( 769371 )

        This thing is a suborbital. It's not going to space.

        I don't think anyone is claiming it was going to.

        The name "space shuttle" does imply it will be going into space.

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