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The competition heats up: India’s space agency ISRO has announced that they will test fly a prototype space plane sometime between April and June this year.
The test and prototype both sound very similar to Europe’s IXV prototype space plane, test flown only a few weeks ago.
“Technology Demonstrator winged body vehicle weighing 1.5T will be lofted to a height of 70 km using solid booster, thus attaining five times the speed of sound. Thereafter, it will descend by gliding and splashing down into the sea”, said an official statement. This test flight would demonstrate the Hypersonic aerodynamics characteristics, Avionics system, Thermal protection system, Control system and Mission management.
Both programs also remind me of many similar NASA engineering test programs, most of which ended up as dead ends, with the new technology never applied to actual real world missions. Whether that happens in Europe and India remains the main question. The increasing competition in space should help prevent it, but these are also government-run programs, so their goal has less to do with profit and competition than pork and political maneuvering.