Tag Archives: hypersonic

India to test reusable mini-shuttle in May

The competition heats up: ISRO, India’s space agency, this week announced plans to conduct its first test flight of its half-scale prototype reusable launch vehicle in May.

The RLV, is a scaled-down prototype (some 21.3 feet in length or 6.5 meters) of a future uncrewed single-stage reusable spaceplane, known as Avatar, that is being designed by the ISRO. The May mission will be a technology demonstrator (RLV-TD) to test powered cruise flight, autonomous landing and hypersonic flight using an air-breathing propulsion system. The spacecraft, which resembles a small winged aircraft, will be launched from the first launchpad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre to an altitude of 43 miles (70 km) atop a two-stage Rohini sounding rocket and then released. It will re-enter the atmosphere and travel back to Earth in a controlled descent, to be recovered from the Bay of Bengal. [emphasis mine]

This vehicle is kind of Inida’s version of the Air Force’s X-37B, except that it is also testing a hypersonic scramjet engine, a cutting edge design that the U.S. has barely been able to fly successfully. Should they succeed, it will place them smack dab in the middle of the elite club of space-faring nations.

The Air Force has released its investigation into the failure of the August test flight of the X-51a hypersonic scramjet.

The Air Force has released its investigation into the failure of the August test flight of the X-51a hypersonic scramjet.

As first surmised, the problem was a control fin. Though they haven’t set the date for the next test flight, it appears they do intend to proceed.

Second X-51 hypersonic flight crashes prematurely

Second X-51 hypersonic flight crashes prematurely.

After what the US Air Force described as a ‘flawless’ flight to the launch point aboard a Boeing B-52 mothership, the X-51 was successfully boosted to Mach 5.0 by a rocket booster. The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet engine successfully ignited using its initial fuel, ethylene. During the immediate transition to JP-7, the conventional fuel that makes the X-51 unique, an inlet unstart occurred. A subsequent attempt to restart and reorient to optimal conditions was unsuccessful.