India successfully tests its hypersonic missile carrier than can also launch satellites into orbit

HSTDV model displayed at the ILA Berlin Air Show ILA 2012Bin im Garten/WIkimedia
  • India's Defence Research and Development Organisation has successfully tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), which has an indigenously development scramjet proplusion system.
  • The hypersonic missile carrier can travel faster than the speed of sound at Mach 6 while carrying a mother rocket or even help launch satellites into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • The successful test of this technology will help the DRDO advance its development of India's hypersonic missle, the BrahMos-II.

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) with an indigenously developed scramjet propulsion system.


This puts India at par with other countries like the US, Russia, Japan and China, who have already tested this technology with success in the past.

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The unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft is capable of cruising at Mach 6 speed while carrying long-range and hypersonic cruise missiles. Travelling faster than the speed of sound, which is Mach 1, the HSTDV can be anywhere on Earth within one hour.

It’s biggest selling point is that it can also be used for launching satellites at a low cost.

What makes a hypersonic weapon so dangerous?
In order for a weapon to be categorised as hypersonic there are three factors that need to be taken into account. It needs to be able to fly at speeds of at least 5,000 kilometres per hour (Mach 5), keep low and not lose maneuverability during flight.

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This makes it more unpredictable and lethal as compared to conventional missile systems. Missile systems generally follow a ‘ballistic trajectory’ — paths that are easy to follow and detect. This gives the adversary time to prepare and launch a counter attack.

A hypersonic weapons system on the other hand can change course at will and doesn’t follow any kind of flight plan that the enemy can predict. This also puts a larger area under threat. There’s no time for the targeted region to detect, identify, alert and then try to hit back.

Limitations when it comes to carrying satellites into space
While the HSTDV can carry satellites into space at a low cost, it will mostly be useful for launching them into low-Earth orbit (LEO). This is because in order to launch satellites, rocket engines conventionally use fuel. This fuel consists of two parts — the oxidizer and the igniter.

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The HSTDV, on the other hand, uses a scramjet engine. If it goes too high, there won’t be enough oxygen in the atmosphere to support its flight beyond an attitude of 1,000 kilometres.

Nonetheless, the success of HSTDV will help India bring its next-generation hypersonic missile to live — BrahMos-II. It is currently under development by the DRDO in a collaboration with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia.
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