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ISRO's RLV-LEX-02 Mission: A Leap Forward in Autonomous Space Vehicle Landing
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ISRO's RLV-LEX-02 Mission: A Leap Forward in Autonomous Space Vehicle Landing
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Mar 22, 2024

In a significant advancement for reusable launch vehicle technology, ISRO successfully conducted the RLV Landing Experiment (LEX-02), marking a milestone in the autonomous landing capabilities of space-returning vehicles. This experiment, carried out at the Aeronautical Test Range in Karnataka, demonstrated the vehicle's ability to autonomously correct its trajectory and land precisely on a runway.

Following the success of last year's RLV-LEX-01 mission, the second mission in the series, RLV-LEX-02, showcased the vehicle's enhanced maneuverability and autonomous landing precision from challenging initial conditions. Named Pushpak, the winged vehicle was deployed from an Indian Airforce Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4.5 km and autonomously navigated to the runway, making necessary corrections to its path before landing safely.

This mission validated the critical technologies developed indigenously by ISRO, including navigation, control systems, landing gear, and deceleration systems crucial for the high-speed autonomous landing of space-returning vehicles. The successful reuse of the winged body and flight systems from the previous RLV-LEX-01 mission also demonstrated the capability for hardware and system reuse.

The mission saw collaboration across various organizations, with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre leading the charge, supported by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, and contributions from the Indian Air Force and other defense and aerospace agencies. ISRO's Chairman S Somanath and VSSC Director S Unnikrishnan Nair lauded the team for their flawless execution of this complex mission, underscoring the mission's significance in mastering autonomous landing and energy management for future Orbital Re-entry missions.

The RLV-LEX-02's success was also supported by extensive tracking, navigation, and meteorological support from various ISRO centres, demonstrating a collective effort in pushing the boundaries of India's space exploration capabilities.

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