The Indian space agency is getting ready to test a scaled-down version of what can be described as the 'Swadeshi Space Shuttle'. According to ISRO, it is called the 'Reusable Launch Vehicle' or RLV.

If all goes well, it will be seen flying over the Science City in Challakere, Karnataka, where the first landing experiment is being planned.

S Somanath, Chairman, ISRO says "We are working silently on reusable rocket technology, with a very low budget, low cost and low investment."

Earlier, USA and Russia have flown full-fledged winged space vehicles. Russia/USSR flew its vehicle called `Buran' only once in 1988 but the program was then shelved. The USA made 135 flights of the Space Shuttle and in 2011 it came to an end.

Since then, the US, China, and India are the only countries which have an active program of re-useable rocket development. If all goes well, India's full-fledged test of reusable launch vehicles may happen only in the 2030s.

ISRO's reusability is far more complex than the rocket stage recovery experiments carried out by Space X which is why it will take time to fully master.

The new bird will weigh nearly four tonnes and it will be hoisted into the sky on a helicopter and then it will be released from an altitude of about three kilometres and from a distance of three kilometres from the runway.

"The vehicle then has to navigate, glide and successfully land unpiloted and autonomously at the defence runway in Challakare," says Somanath.

This experiment using the scaled-down version is called Reusable Launch Vehicle – Landing Experiment or the RLV – LEX. This is essentially an airdrop test to understand the aerodynamics of the airframe which has been developed in-house by ISRO.