How a Bengaluru firm gave wings to ISRO’s RLV

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday achieved a significant milestone in reusable launch vehicle (RLV) technology through the RLV LEX 2 landing experiment in Karnataka, a release by the space agency said.

The winged vehicle – Pushpak – was lifted by an Indian Air Force Chinook helicopter and released from an altitude of 4.5 km. The landing gear of the RLV was designed, developed and supplied by Bengaluru-based Timetooth Technologies.

The landing was executed as a two-point landing. The main landing units absorbed the major shock energy in a small stroke, followed by the slap-down of the nose landing gear. Then the wheels-on-ground status sensed by sensors and stage-wise braking started — through parachute & wheel-brakes — to stop the RLV in a short distance. Additionally, the nose-wheel-steering mechanism safely kept the steering in control at high speed.

Calling it a proud moment, Girish Mudgal, Co-Founder of Bengaluru-based Timetooth Technologies, recalled how the project was completed on a “war footing” given the short timeline to execute it. “The design was completed in 8 weeks, and the manufacturing and qualification testing completed in another 12 weeks. ISRO and our team worked round the clock to deliver in such a tight project timeline of about 5 months,” he stated.

ISRO had successfully completed its RLV autonomous landing experiment (RLV LEX) on April 2 last year. In its statement on Friday, it stated how RLV-LEX-02 demonstrated the autonomous landing capability of RLV from off-nominal initial conditions at release from a helicopter. “The RLV was made to undertake more difficult manoeuvres with dispersions, correct both cross-range and downrange and land on the runway in a fully autonomous mode,” it added.

Hailing the success of the mission, Amitav Chaudhuri, co-founder, Timetooth Technologies, stated that the LEX 02 mission validates their capabilities as one of India’s top engineering solutions companies for mission-critical system development and supply.

Mudgal said the RLV-LEX-02 had some unique challenges that they worked around strategically to achieve the desired result. “The LEX 02 programme required a Timetooth landing gear system to be developed for higher nose landing gear slap-down velocities, leading to higher energy absorption requirements. This was challenging to encompass in the existing configuration. With an innovative design approach and minor aircraft interface modifications on RLV executed collaboratively with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre scientists, the LEX 02 LG system was realised in the fastest possible time,” he added.

The mission, accomplished by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) along with the Liquid Propulsion System Centre (LPSC) and the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), builds on the success of the RLV-LEX-01 mission. In this latest mission, the winged body and all flight systems used in RLV-LEX-01 were reused after due certification and clearances, demonstrating the reuse capability of flight hardware and flight systems.

William Murphy

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