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India Successfully Tests Mini Space Shuttle | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLVC-21 lifts off carrying one French and one Japanese satellite from a launch pad in Sriharikota, southern India. Associated Press

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has said that it successfully launched its first small space shuttle as part of its efforts to make low-cost reusable spacecraft.

ISRO said a rocket carrying the shuttle lifted off from a launch pad in southern India on Monday and completed a successful 13-minute test flight.

“We are very excited,” said Deviprasad Karnika, a spokesman for ISRO. “The team has been working on the project for the past 10 years, with the past five spent on designing the actual model.”

But Karnik cautioned that there was a long road ahead.

“This is just an experiment, which is a baby step to the final reusable launch vehicle which will take years to realize,” he told CNN a week prior to the launch.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted from Tehran to congratulate the team on a successful launch.

“Launch of India’s first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them,” he said.

Space expert Pallava Bagla, who writes for science magazines, said the test paves the way for India to embark on low-cost space missions.

He said the United States and some other countries have abandoned the use of winged reusable spacecraft, but the Asian giant hopes to bring down the cost of access to space by 90 percent by using reusable vehicles.

India hopes to become a player in the multibillion-dollar space launch market, and has successfully placed light satellites into orbit in recent years.