India Launches Reusable Space Shuttle Prototype

PHOTO: On May 23, 2016 ISRO (Indian Research Space Organization) successfully flight tested India’s first winged body aerospace vehicle operating in hypersonic flight regime. PlayIndian Research Space Organization
WATCH India Launches Reusable Space Shuttle Prototype

India's quest to build a reusable space shuttle just cleared its first major hurdle with the successful launch today of a miniature prototype.

The shuttle, which is designed to place satellites into orbit, took its first test flight today when it blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, an island located off the country's southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal.

After reaching a peak altitude of 40 miles this morning, the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) re-entered the atmosphere at Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) and successfully descended to a landing spot over the Bay of Bengal, about 279 miles from where it launched, according to a statement from India's Space Research Organization (ISRO).

"In this flight, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control, reusable thermal protection system and re-entry mission management have been successfully validated," the ISRO said in a statement.

India's Space Research Organization has been working on low-cost space technologies, with the shuttle prototype reportedly costing $14 million, according to the BBC.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the "industrious work of our scientists" in helping make the test launch a success.

In 2013, India launched its Mars Orbiter Mission, sending a satellite to enter the Red Planet's orbit. The total cost of the mission was reported to be around $74 million, making it just a fraction of the cost of other exploratory missions to Mars.