An autonomous landing was carried out under the exact conditions of a Space Re-entry Vehicle's landing
India has taken one more step towards having a reusable space launch vehicle.

The Indian Space Research Organisation and its partners including the Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully demonstrated a precise landing experiment for a Reusable Launch Vehicle at the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, Karnataka on Sunday (April 2, 2023).

“In a first in the world, a winged body has been carried to an altitude of 4.5 km by a helicopter and released for carrying out an autonomous landing on a runway,” the ISRO tweeted after the successful Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX).

"With LEX, the dream of an Indian Reusable Launch Vehicle arrives one step closer to reality," ISRO said in a statement.

According to ISRO, the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) took off at 7:10am with a Chinook Helicopter of the IAF as an underslung load and flew to a height of 4.5 km. The RLV was then released mid-air.

RLV performed approach and landing manoeuvres using the integrated navigation, guidance and control system and completed an autonomous landing on the ATR airstrip at 7:40am.

“The autonomous landing was carried out under the exact conditions of a Space Re-entry vehicle's landing —high speed, unmanned, precise landing from the same return path— as if the vehicle arrives from space,” the ISRO statement added.

Besides the Indian Air Force (IAF), Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), and Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) also contributed to the test.

The Reusable Launch Vehicle Autonomous Landing Mission (RLV LEX) test was the second of five tests that are a part of ISRO’s efforts to develop RLVs. These can travel to Low Earth Orbits (LEO) to deliver payloads and return to earth for use again.

According to ISRO, the RLV is essentially a space plane with a low lift to drag ratio requiring an approach at high glide angles that necessitated a landing at high velocities of 350 kmph.

The space agency added that the LEX utilized several indigenous systems. Localized Navigation systems based on pseudolite systems, instrumentation, and sensor systems, etc. were developed by ISRO.