India's 1st Mini 'Space Shuttle' Test Launch in Pictures

Meet India's 1st Space Plane

Indian Space Research Organisation

On May 23, 2016, India launched the first test flight of its Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator, a winged, unmanned spacecraft that resembles a miniature space shuttle. Built by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the craft - called the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Tehnology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) - is designed to test the technologies needed to build a fully reusable orbital space plane. See photos from India's space plane test flight here. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

A Mini Space Shuttle

Indian Space Research Organisation

This image truly shows the small scale of India's RLV-TD space plane as compared to a human engineer. With its snub nose and delta wing, the RLV-TD looks like a miniature NASA space shuttle with twin tails similar to the U.S. Air Force's robotic X-37B space planes. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Getting a Boost

Indian Space Research Organisation

To launch the RLV-TD mission (ISRO officials called the test flight Hex-01), ISRO used an unmanned HS9 solid rocket booster. The booster and space plane are seen here at their launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Space Plane and Rocket

Indian Space Research Organisation

For its first test flight, the RLV-TD space plane was attached to the top of its HS9 booster rocket. Unlike the U.S. Air Force's orbital X-37B space planes (which are covered by a protective nosecone during launch), the RLV-TD apparently had no need for such a shroud. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Behold: India's Space Plane

Indian Space Research Organisation

The shuttle-like design of India's RLV-TD space plane is on clear display in this stunning image of the craft perched atop its HS9 solid rocket booster ahead of launch. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Liftoff for India's RLV-TD

Indian Space Research Organisation

ISRO launched the RLV-TD test flight on Monday, May 23, 2016 at 7 a.m. local time (IST). The HS9 solid rocket booster was designed to fire for just 91.1 seconds. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Hitting Mach 5

Indian Space Research Organisation

During the ascent, the HS9 rocket booster accelerated India's RLV-TD space plane to a maximum hypersonic speed of Mach 5 (about five times the speed of sound). Once the HS9 booster burned out, it separated from the space plane as both were flying nearly 35 miles (56 kilometers) above Earth. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

Onward and Upward

Indian Space Research Organisation

The RLV-TD space plane continued to coast upward to a maximum altitude of 40 miles (65 kilometers) before beginning the descent back to Earth. While flying at Mach 5, the RLV-TD was successfully able to steer through a series of maneuvers, ISRO officials said in a statement. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

A Test Flight Success

Indian Space Research Organisation

India's RLV-TD space plane successfully flew itself back to a preplanned "landing" site in the Bay of Bengal and clearly survived the superhot temperatures of re-entry, according to ISRO officials, who dubbed the test flight a success. From launch to splashdown, the mission lasted about 770 seconds, with the RLV-TD flying about 280 miles (450 km) before touchdown. Read our full story on India's space plane test flight here.

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