|Function||Unmanned reusable spaceplane|
|Country of origin||India|
|Mass||25 tons |
Low Earth orbit
|1,000 kg (2,200 lb)|
|Launch sites||Satish Dhawan Space Centre|
|First flight||2025 (proposed)|
|Engines||Turbo-ramjet, scramjet and cryogenic|
Avatar (Sanskrit: अवतार) (from "Aerobic Vehicle for Transatmospheric Hypersonic Aerospace TrAnspoRtation") is a concept for a unmanned single-stage reusable spaceplane capable of horizontal takeoff and landing, by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation along with Indian Space Research Organisation and other research institutions. The mission concept is for low cost military and commercial satellite space launches.
In January 2012, it was announced that a scaled prototype, called 'Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator' (RLV-TD), was approved to be built and tested. The vehicle is undergoing flight integration at the VSSC before being moved to Bengaluru for acoustic testing and later to Sriharikota for the launch expected to take place in April 2016. The first orbital flight is proposed for 2025.
The idea is to develop a spaceplane vehicle that can takeoff 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, a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) was first announced in May 1998 at the Aero India 98 exhibition held at Bangalore.
Avatar is projected to weigh 25 tons, of which 60% of that mass would be liquid hydrogen fuel. The oxygen required by the vehicle for combustion in outer space would be collected from the atmosphere during takeoff, thus reducing the need to carry oxygen during launch. The notional specification is for a payload weighing up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) to low Earth orbit and to withstand up to 100 launches and reentries.
If built, Avatar would takeoff horizontally like a conventional airplane from a conventional airstrip using turbo-ramjet engines that burn hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen. Once at a cruising altitude, the vehicle would use scramjet propulsion to accelerate from Mach 4 to Mach 8. During this cruising phase, an on-board system would collect air from the atmosphere, from which liquid oxygen would be separated and stored. The liquid oxygen collected would then be used to burn the stored hydrogen in the final flight phase to attain orbit. The vehicle would be designed to permit at least one hundred launches and atmospheric reentries.
Avatar is being developed by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation. 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 on July 10, 2001. Gopalaswami said the idea for Avatar originated from the work published by the RAND Corporation of the United States in 1987.
In January 2012, ISRO announced that a scaled prototype, called Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), was approved to be built and tested.
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, engineers at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station were installing thermal tiles on the outer surface of the 'RLV-TD', so it can withstand the intense heat during atmospheric reentry. This 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.
In 2006 Indian Space Research Organisation in a series of ground tests demonstrated a stable supersonic combustion for nearly 7 seconds with an inlet Mach number of 6. A flight test of scram-jet engine is planned in second demonstration flight(ATV-D02) of "Advanced Technology Vehicle" that has a diameter of 0.56 m and a length of ~10 m and take off mass of ~3 tonnes in 2016.
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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