India announces scheduled to test a prototype space plane

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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.



  • Matt in AZ

    Though if Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser makes it into space, it could be argued NASA’s work wasn’t quite a dead dead. Granted, it has a very convoluted development path (NASA lifting bodies, Soviet BOR-4, NASA HL-20, private industry)

  • wodun

    Or when Bigelow’s BEAM gets up there.

  • Edward

    I think that the phrase “dead end” may have been misleading. Just because NASA did not finish their development does not make the concept unusable, and I don’t think that Robert intended to imply that. I think he meant that NASA abandoned the technologies before they were developed for actual spaceflight.

    For example, Pzatchok pointed out, in a recent comment, that the Soviets use ion drives, a technology which NASA abandoned, long ago, but recently reconsidered their use on spacecraft.

    I think that it is a shame that NASA spends resources developing technologies, only to abandon them before putting them to use.

    On the other hand, two of NASA’s lost opportunities are Bigelow Aerospace’s and Sierra Nevada’s gains.

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