An RLV-TD, for Reusable Launch Vehicle — Technology Demonstrator, a shuttle the size of a minibus, was successfully launched at 7:00 AM local time on Monday.
During the 10-minute flight the shuttle reached an altitude of 43 miles, after which it descended, entering the atmosphere at hypersonic speed, until slowing down and eventually splashing into the Bay of Bengal.
Madhavan Chandradathan, a former director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, dubbed the mission a success, adding that “RLV-TD is healthy and floating on the sea."
"Everything went according to the predictions,” he told The Hindu, adding that the reentered rocket will be left in the sea.
According to ISRO, the launch was an important step toward the development of a cheap, reliable, and, most of all, reusable Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) launch vehicle. It is expected to be used to put satellites into orbit.
SpaceX, a company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has successfully landed its reusable rocket Falcon 9 on a drone ship. Unlike the Indian version, however, the Falcon 9 costs over $60 million.
India seeks to make space exploration affordable. In 2013, an unmanned Indian rocket was hurled to Mars, arriving in late September 2014. That mission cost $73 million, compared to NASA’s Maven Mars price tag of $671 million.