Saturday, August 20, 2011

NDTV: Soon, India to have its own space shuttle

An engineering model of what scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) call the re-usable launch vehicle, is currently housed at a secure and secret facility in Kerala. Covered with special heat resistant tiles, soon it will roar skywards.
I saw this on the Free Republic website.  It got my attention due to my interest in the flyable rocket concept, which could be a way to make access to space affordable.

The Free Republic commenters said that this was a rip off of the Boeing X-37, which has flown a couple of times in recent years.  So, I started looking into the X-37.  It is launched by an Atlas V, so it is not a fully reusable system.  It also carries a payload onboad.  It's total launch weight is only 11,000 pounds, which makes it a small vehicle.  It does go to orbit and returns and lands like a plane.

The interesting thing to me is that it weighs 11,000 pounds and has these really short wings.  Not knowing any better, I'd say something similar might be done with a rocket casing itself, thereby making a first stage flyable. After all, it seems rather pointless to have only a part of the launch system reusable.  A Falcon 9 first stage should weigh no more than say an empty shuttle external tank, which came in at 50,000 pounds.  I don't know what the Falcon 9 weighs while empty, and counting only the weight of the first stage.

It would seem that outside of SpaceX, there doesn't appear to be much interest in making the entire launch system reusable.  But significant portions are already reusable.  Frankly, it looks to me like something could already be put together that would make all of the system reusable, but would it have fast turnaround times? That is basically the whole point.

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