India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has made a test flight of a new design for winged reusable space travel. The endo-atmospheric suborbital test flight, dubbed HEX-1, of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) was blasted to hypersonic velocity using an HS9 solid rocket stage from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 0130 GMT on 23 May 2016.

RLV-TD hypersonic research craft. Courtesy: ISRO

RLV-TD hypersonic research craft. Courtesy: ISRO


The RLV-TD was launched to an altitude of 70km. After gliding hypersonically at Mach 5.5 in a nose high attitude as it descended, the craft eventually landed in the sea in the Bay of Bengal, 500km away from the launch site.

The vertically launched 6.5m long, 1.75 metric tonne model is expected to be eventually scaled up to produce a fully reusable orbit-capable, 40m long aerospace vehicle.

Post script:  In a separate development, an Australian-built vehicle was launched to Mach 7.5 using a rocket fired from the Woomera Test Range on 18 May 2016. The test was a forerunner for a full-blown supersonic combustion, scramjet test set for 2018.

ISRO's RLV-TD is launched. Courtesy: ISRO

ISRO’s RLV-TD is launched. Courtesy: ISRO