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ISRO to Test Rocket That Uses Oxygen Directly from the Atmosphere to Fuel Itself

After the successful testing of the Re-usable Satellite Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD), ISRO is now planning to test an air-breathing propulsion system.

This system will use the oxygen in the atmosphere for combustion of fuel instead of depending on liquefied oxygen that has to be carried by launch vehicles as of now.


Launch vehicles for satellites generally depend on combustion of propellants with oxidiser and fuel. With the air-breathing propulsion system, ISRO plans to use atmospheric oxygen for the combustion of fuel in the rocket for up to 50 km from the earth’s surface. This will help in reducing the lift-off mass of the launch vehicle as there will be no need to carry liquefied oxygen.

“The mission to test the technology would be launched either in the last week of June or early July from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The mission would be on a sounding rocket,” K. Sivan, Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre told The Hindu.

The new propulsion system will be an added advantage in ISRO’s work towards the developing a reusable launch vehicle with longer flight duration.

On May 23, ISRO successfully launched its first indigenous RLV-TD from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.



Known as RLV-TD HEX 01 mission, the launch vehicle came back and landed in the Bay of Bengal as was planned. Once fully developed, this vehicle can be used multiple times to send satellites into space, thereby reducing the launch cost. Currently, every time a satellite is launched, the launch rocket goes to waste. While this vehicle was disintegrated after landing, the next test will aim for getting the complete vehicle back and make it land on a 5 km runway.

All pictures: ISRO

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