AVATAR Spacecraft,Reusable Launch Vehicle,Future Spaceplane,DRDO,ISRO,India
Avatar a “Aerobic Vehicle for transatmospheric Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation” is a concept for a unmanned single-stage reusable spaceplane capable of horizontal takeoff and landing.It is being developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) along with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and other research institutions.
The spacecraft will be used for low cost military and commercial satellite space launches.It would be the cheapest way to deliver material to space at petty rate of Just USD 67 per Kg.The spacecraft would be capable of delivering a 500 to 1000 kg payload to low earth orbit and can withstand 100 launches in its life span.
Development and Concept
Avatar is being developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO).on July 2001 Air Commodore Raghavan Gopalaswami, who is heading the project, made a presentation on the spaceplane at the global conference on propulsion at Salt Lake City, USA. Gopalaswami said the idea for AVATAR originated from the work published by the RAND Corporation of the United States in 1987.
The idea is to develop a hyperplane vehicle that can take off from conventional airfields, collect air in the atmosphere on the way up, liquefy it, separate oxygen and store it on board for subsequent flight beyond the atmosphere. The AVATAR RLV was first announced in May 1998 at the Aero India 98 exhibition held at Bangalore.
AVATAR is proposed to weigh only 25 tonnes in which 60 per cent of mass will be liquid hydrogen fuel. The oxygen required by the vehicle for combustion is collected from the atmosphere, thus reducing the need to carry oxygen during launch. AVATAR is said to be capable of entering into a 100-km orbit in a single stage and launching satellites weighing up to one tonne.
AVATAR is currently in the prototype testing stage.In January 2012,ISRO announced that a scaled prototype,called Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), was approved to be built and tested.An initial development budget of only $5 million is also allocated.But project supporters claim that the vehicle can be built in ten years with total funding of under $2 billion.The Launch is expected to take place in April 2016. The first orbital flight is proposed for 2025.
DRDO team along with ISRO and other 23 academic institutions in India is working on the conceptual design and development of technology components. A Hyderabad-based private company CIM Technologies is also participating in the project. Both the scramjet engine concept and the liquid oxygen collection process have already undergone successful tests at DRDO and at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. DRDO has approved further testing of the liquid oxygen process and assigned a team to conduct a detailed review of the vehicle’s design.
Scale Down-Versions and Tests
Currently DRDO plans to build and fly a scaled-down version of AVATAR, weighing just 3 tonnes at takeoff. The project is headed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. The mini AVATAR is to be built by a Hyderabad-based private company called CIM Technologies, project completion data is still not finalized. The prototype will be launched using the PSLV and will demonstrate all technologies used in AVATAR including oxygen collection.
The aerodynamics characterization of the RLV-TD was done by National Aerospace Laboratories. The AVATAR design has already been patented in India and applications for registration of the design have been filed in patent offices in the United States, Germany, Russia and China.
The aerodynamics characterization of the RLV-TD prototype was done by National Aerospace Laboratories in India. The RLV-TD is in the last stages of construction.By May 2015 The RLV-TD prototype was tested by installing thermal tiles on the outer surface by the engineers at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station so it can withstand the intense heat during atmospheric reentry.
The prototype weighs around 1.5 tonnes and would fly up to an altitude of 70 Km. ISRO has tentatively slated the prototype’s test flight from the first launchpad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre for February 2016. The RLV-TD will be mounted on top of a two stage Rohini sounding rocket rocket and launched beyond the atmosphere, after which the RLV-TD will separate and reenter the atmosphere while traveling through the hypersonic regime.
The rocket is expendable while the RLV would glide back to Earth and fall in Bay of Bengal as there are no airstrips that are 5 km long at desired location that could be used to land such aircraft. ISRO has made detailed reports to construct an airstrip greater than 4 km long in the Sriharikota island and it will be built in near future.
AVATAR would take off horizontally like conventional airplanes from conventional airstrips using turbo-ramjet engines that burn air and hydrogen. Once at a cruising altitude, the vehicle would use scramjet propulsion to accelerate from Mach 4 to Mach 8. During these cruising phases, an on-board system will collect air from which liquid oxygen will be separated. The liquid oxygen collected then would be used in the final flight phase, when the rocket engine burns the collected liquid oxygen and the carried hydrogen to attain orbit. The vehicle will be designed to permit at least a hundred re-entries into the atmosphere.
Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle(The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight) being developed by Defence Research and Development Organization to demonstrate scram-jet technology.
Hopes from AVATAR
Indian Scientists hopes that the AVATAR will make space solar power (SSP) stations affordable providing a global solution for the coming energy crisis.As Till now SSP stations were unthinkable because of high cost of space launches but due to lesser launch cost of AVATAR may be in future the SSPs are affordable.The idea being that a string of satellites in space will convert sunlight into microwaves and beam to earth where it will be turned into electricity.