ISRO – Autonomous landing of India’s first reusable rocket
India’s first reusable rocket – The Indian Space Research Organisation has completed the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX), bringing the realization of an Indian Reusable Launch Vehicle one step closer (ISRO). The trial took place at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka, and involved a winged body being lifted to an altitude of 4.5 km by an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter before being released to perform an independent landing on a runway.
This is the first time a helicopter has released a winged body in mid-air and it has performed an autonomous landing. The RLV LEX is essentially a space plane with a low lift-to-drag ratio, necessitating an approach at high glide angles and landing at high speeds.
The autonomous landing was carried out under conditions similar to those of a space re-entry vehicle landing, achieving landing parameters such as precise body rates, sink rate of landing gears, and ground relative velocity. Several cutting-edge technologies were required to complete the Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX), including precise navigation hardware and software, a Pseudolite system, a Ka-band Radar Altimeter, a NavIC receiver, indigenous landing gear, Aerofoil honeycomb fins, and a brake parachute system.
India’s first reusable rocket
The LEX mission completed the final approach phase along the re-entry return flight path with an autonomous, high-speed (350 kmph) landing. In 2019, the Integrated Navigation test was conducted, followed by multiple Engineering Model Trials and Captive Phase tests in subsequent years.
The test was carried out in collaboration with the Indian Air Force, the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), and the Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE). Multiple sorties were conducted to perfect the release conditions, with Secretary in the Department of Space and ISRO Chairman S Somanath present.
The successful RLV LEX test demonstrates that adapting modern technologies developed for RLV LEX can make other ISRO operational launch vehicles more efficient.