'Pushpak': All you need to know about ISRO's RLV and its successful landing

The RLV landed with precision on the runway after being released from a chopper

Pushpak Pushpak, a Reusable Launch Vehicle makes a landing autonomously with precision on the runway after being released from an off-nominal position, at Aeronautical Test Range, in Chitradurga | ISRO

The ISRO on Friday scripted history when it successfully landed its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) named 'Pushpak' from the Aeronautical Test Range at Challakere in Karnataka as part of the RLV-LEX-02 mission.

The SUV-sized winged vehicle landed autonomously with precision on the runway after being released from an Indian Air Force helicopter as part of the test. 'Pushpak', dubbed the "swadeshi space shuttle", was released from an altitude of 4.5 kilometres. 

After the RLV-LEX-01 mission was accomplished last year, RLV-LEX-02 demonstrated the autonomous landing capability of the RLV from off-nominal initial conditions at release from the helicopter, the ISRO statement said.

Here is what you need to know about the landing.

1) The RLV was released from an Indian Air Force (IAF) Chinook helicopter from 4.5 km altitude. It then autonomously approached the runway along with cross-range corrections before landing precisely on the runway.

2) Pushpak came to a halt using its brake parachute, landing gear brakes and nose wheel steering system.

3) The ISRO statement issued on Friday said the mission successfully simulated the approach and high-speed landing conditions of RLV returning from space.  

4) ISRO said the mission also helped to re-validate the indigenously developed technologies in the areas of navigation, control systems, landing gear and deceleration systems essential for performing a high-speed autonomous landing of a space-returning vehicle.

5) Though the experiment was a success and was a part of the RLC's robotic landing ability in more complicated circumstances, it would take many years for Pushpak to be deployed operationally.

6) This was 'Pushpak's third test, the first was from Sriharikota in 2016 when the RLV successfully landed on a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal and sank, as per the plan.

7)  A second test was successfully conducted in 2023 when the winged rocket was dropped from the air by a Chinook Helicopter for an autonomous landing.

8) A Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) consists of a fuselage (body), a nose cap, double delta wings and twin vertical tails. During its descent, small thrusters help the vehicle navigate to the exact spot where it is supposed to land. 

9)  The winged body and all flight systems used in RLV-LEX-01 were reused in the RLV-LEX-02 mission after due certification/ clearances. Hence, the reuse capability of flight hardware and flight systems is also demonstrated in this mission, ISRO said.

10) Based on the observation from RLV-LEX-01, the airframe structure and landing gear were strengthened to tolerate higher landing loads, the ISRO said.


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