The air-breathing propulsion experiment was a success beyond expectations. A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO, said India was only the fourth country to demonstrate the flight-testing of a scramjet engine. (The other three countries are the United States, Russia and Australia.) The two-stage vehicle used was a modified sounding rocket called RH-560, developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram. It weighed about 3277kg. After a flight lasting 300 seconds, the second stage of the RH-560 (RH stands for Rohini) fell into the Bay of Bengal, about 320 kilometers from Sriharikota. Ground stations at Sriharikota tracked the flight of the vehicle from its lift-off at 6 a.m. to its splashdown in the Bay of Bengal, 300 seconds later.
In this mission, ISRO has successfully demonstrated its capabilities in critical technologies like the ignition of air-breathing engines at supersonic speed.
The experiment was the second step taken this year by ISRO, achieving a low-cost access to space. Usually rocket engines carry both fuel and oxidiser on board for combustion, but these newly developed engines with air-breathing propulsion system will use oxygen from the atmosphere thereby reducing the lift-off mass of the vehicle. Reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) which use scramjet engines, will lead to a drastic reduction in the cost per kg of payload delivered when a launch vehicle is used to put a satellite into the orbit.
Last modified: March 3, 2018