Avatar (spacecraft)

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A scaled down version of AVATAR undergoing aero-elastic test.
Function Unmanned reusable spaceplane technology demonstrator
Manufacturer DRDO/ISRO
Country of origin  India
Stages 1/2
Launch history
Status In development[1]
Launch sites Satish Dhawan Space Centre
Total launches 0
First flight 2025 (proposed)[2]

AVATAR (Sanskrit: अवतार) (from "Aerobic Vehicle for Transatmospheric Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation") is a concept for a manned single-stage reusable spaceplane capable of horizontal takeoff and landing, by India's Defence Research and Development Organization along with Indian Space Research Organization and other research institutions. The mission concept is for low cost military and commercial satellite space launches, as well as for space tourism.[3][4][5]

In January 2012, it was announced that a scaled prototype, called Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), has been approved to be built.[1] The first scaled-down tests are planned for 2015,[2] and the first manned AVATAR flight is proposed for 2025.[2]


The idea is to develop a hyperplane vehicle that can take off from conventional airfields. Its liquid air cycle engine would 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.[citation needed]

AVATAR is projected to weigh 25 tons, of which 60% of that mass would be liquid hydrogen fuel.[4] The oxygen required by the vehicle for combustion in outer space is collected from the atmosphere, thus reducing the need to carry oxygen during launch.[4] The notional specification is for a payload weighing up to 1,000 kg to low earth orbit and to withstand up to 100 launches and re-entries.[3][4]


If built, AVATAR would take off horizontally like a conventional airplane from a conventional airstrip using turbo-ramjet engines that burn hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen.[4] Once at a cruising altitude, the vehicle would use scramjet propulsion to accelerate from Mach 4 to Mach 8.[2] During this cruising phase, an on-board system would collect air from the atmosphere, from which liquid oxygen would be separated and stored.[4] The liquid oxygen collected would then be used to burn the carried hydrogen in the final flight phase to attain orbit. The vehicle would be designed to permit at least one hundred launches and re-entries into the atmosphere.[4]


A model of the RLV-TD

AVATAR is being developed by India's Defence Research and Development Organization.[3] Air Commodore Raghavan Gopalaswami, who is heading the project, made a presentation on the space plane at the global conference on propulsion at Salt Lake City, USA on July 10, 2001.[3][4] Gopalaswami said the idea for AVATAR originated from the work published by the RAND Corporation of the United States in 1987.[4]

In January 2012, it was announced that an scaled prototype, called Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), had been approved to be built and tested.[1] The aerodynamics characterization of the RLV-TD was done by National Aerospace Laboratories in India. The unmanned scaled-down prototype weighs about 3 tonnes at takeoff,[5] would have a diameter of 0.56 m and a length of 10 m.[2] The RLV-TD is being built by a Hyderabad-based private company called CIM Technologies. The first tests may begin in 2015.[2] RLV-TD will be mounted on top of a rocket and launched beyond the atmosphere, after which the RLV-TD will separate and re-enter the atmosphere traveling through the hypersonic regime.[6] ISRO presentations indicate that the manned AVATAR spaceplane may fly approximately in 2025.[2]

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b c "ISRO's design of reusable launch vehicle approved". DNA India (Bangalore, India). 5 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Wednesday, August 03, 2011India's Space Shuttle [Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)] program". AA Me, IN. 2011. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Indian Scientists unveils space plane Avatar in US". Gujarat Science City. 10 July 2001. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "India Eyes New Spaceplane Concept". Space Daily (New Delhi). August 8, 2001. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  5. ^ a b "AVATAR- Hyper Plane to be built by INDIA". India's Military and Civilian Technological Advancements. December 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Reusable Launch Vehicles". Brahmand.com. November 25, 2010. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 

External links[edit]