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The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved a significant milestone with the successful autonomous landing of its Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) technology demonstrator, named “LEX.” This mission marks a major step forward in developing a cost-effective and reusable space transportation system.

The RLV LEX is a winged space plane designed to take off vertically, reach orbit, deploy satellites, and then return to Earth for a runway landing. Unlike traditional expendable rockets, the RLV can be reused multiple times, significantly reducing launch costs. ISRO’s recent mission focused on the crucial landing phase, demonstrating the vehicle’s ability to autonomously navigate and land under challenging conditions.

ISRO’s vision extends beyond landing tests. The next stage of development involves creating a Reusable Launch Vehicle – Orbital Re-entry Vehicle (ORV). This iteration will be carried to orbit by a launch vehicle derived from existing GSLV and PSLV stages. The ORV will then remain in orbit for a predetermined period before returning and achieving an autonomous runway landing.

The RLV program has garnered interest from the Indian Air Force (IAF), particularly in the context of a potential transformation into the Indian Air and Space Force (IASF). The IAF sees the Space Plane as a platform for testing new sensors and next-generation satellite technologies in the harsh space environment. This collaboration could pave the way for significant advancements in military space capabilities.

ISRO’s primary motivation for developing the RLV lies in reducing the high cost of space access. A reusable launch vehicle system is considered a key solution to achieving low-cost, reliable, and on-demand access to space, opening doors for more frequent space missions and broader space exploration endeavours.

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