When it comes to rockets, Elon Musk's SpaceX has been leading the reusable space race for a while (with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origins not too far behind). But India reached a milestone today with a more tested reusable spacecraft: the shuttle. According to Gizmodo, the country successfully launched its first reusable space shuttle today from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, in southeast India.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) reports that the 22-foot-long vehicle—about one-sixth of the full-scale model the ISRO plans to build—was carried by the HS9 rocket booster to a height of around 35 miles. There, it detached and ascended roughly five more miles, before successfully making its system-guided descent to a point nearly 280 miles from the launch site.
From launch to landing, the entire journey for the unmanned Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator shuttle (RLV-TD) lasted 770 seconds.
According to BBC News, the project was five years in the making and cost an estimated $14 million—significantly cheaper than most launches and a clear victory for the movement that seeks to make space exploration more affordable. The BBC also reports that Japan, Russia, and Europe are currently testing similar technology and hoping to launch shuttles of their own in the near future.
Images via ISRO