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As India Gives 'Wing' To Rocket Dreams, Here's Why Others Stopped Trials

2024-03-21 12:05:49

As India Gives 'Wing' To Rocket Dreams, Here's Why Others Stopped Trials

India’s 21st-century Pushpak “vimana” is ready to take flight

New Delhi:

India is arduously working to perfect a winged rocket even as most global efforts to have these space planes have come to naught.

The big powers abandoned the idea of a winged reusable launch vehicle, but India’s frugal engineers believe recycling and reusing rockets will reduce the launch cost.

Scientists at ISRO are confident the launch cost can be reduced 10 times with reusable tech that can bring down costs to $2,000 per kg.

With ISRO pushing to master the reusable rocket tech, India’s 21st-century Pushpak “vimana” is ready to take flight.

The ISRO is experimenting its Pushpak launch vehicle, resembling the American Space Shuttle. and the model used in the research is much smaller than the actual one. A sleek SUV-sized winged rocket will be launched for its experimental flight, while the final rocket will take at least 10 to 15 years to be ready.

The only countries to attempt operational flights of a space shuttle are the US, Russia, France, Japan, and China.

The US flew its space shuttle 135 times before retiring it in 2011. The Russians made a single-space shuttle – Buran – and flew it into space once in 1989. The French and the Japanese made some experimental flights, while the Chinese have also been experimenting with one.

Some billionaires, with active support from NASA, have been trying to master vertical lift-offs and landings of recyclable rocket engines.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working to bring back and reuse rocket engines, while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin successfully landed its New Shepard rocket in Texas.

One key technology the scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) had to develop was manufacturing materials that can withstand the extremely high temperatures that the exterior of the vehicle faces while re-entering the dense atmosphere after journeying through near vacuum in space.

The exterior of the rocket becomes a red-hot iron plate due to the friction on re-entry. To withstand these 5,000-7,000 degree Celsius temperatures, scientists developed very lightweight heat-resistant silica tiles for the underbelly of the space plane.

The nose cone takes the brunt of the high temperatures and is made of a special carbon-carbon composite that can withstand high temperatures. These are necessary to protect the insides of the craft where the temperatures should not breach 50 degrees Celsius.

These heat-resistant tiles and thermal coatings failed on the American Space Shuttle Columbia, resulting in the death of Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla in 2003.

Reusable Rocket,Pushpak ISRO

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