Reusable orbiter is the unanimous solution to achieve low cost, reliable and on-demand space access

New Delhi: The Indian Space & Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to conduct a demonstration flight and a orbital launching of a reusable launch vehicle in the coming months as it looks to target the commercial space sector. ISRO has been working on a Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Program to develop a vehicle that can be used multiple times, unlike now when we use a new launch vehicle for every mission.

ISRO chief S Somnath has said that the reusable vehicle is critical for strategic users rather than commercial users, which will allow India to take a payload up into space and bring it back safely. Speaking to Geospatial World, the ISRO chief said, "We will have a landing demonstration soon, followed by an orbital launching demonstration."

"We are also looking at how future launch vehicles can be built and how to bring down the cost of the launcher. Currently, the price per kg is typically $20,000. We have to bring it down to $5,000. This will be possible only by bringing reusability into the rocket," Somnath told Geospatial World.

ISRO has been developing Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle technology that will demonstrate hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.

According to ISRO, under the technology demonstration program, they will conduct a series of experimental flights that will focus on hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).

"Suppose we were to build a reusable rocket and launch it only once or twice a year that would not be economical at all. In fact, it will be costlier than an expendable launcher. We need to first create the background on which the reusable rocket will be required, work out the business and launch opportunity, and only then will a reusable rocket become economically viable," Somnath told Geospatial World.

India has been launching customer satellites on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch vehicle (GSLV), pushing its role in the Low Earth Orbit. The Department of Space earned over Rs 351 crores ($35 million and 10 Million Euros) in foreign revenue in the last three years by conducting satellite launches of various private and international agencies.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister for Science & Technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh said, "NSIL has already launched 45 international customer satellites onboard ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the last three years (2019-2021) and has secured four dedicated launch service contracts for foreign satellite customers."