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Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle

  • 10th September, 2020

Syllabus: Prelims GS Paper I : Current Events of National and International Importance; General Science.

Mains GS Paper III : Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.

Context

India joins hypersonic club with successful test flight of cruise vehicle.

Backgrounddrdo

India conducted a successful test flight of the indigenously developed hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle (HSTDV), joining the elite club of the US, Russia and China who possess such technology. The HSDTV has a range of uses, including missiles for air defence, surveillance and reconnaissance, besides aiding the development of energy-efficient, low-cost and reusable satellite launch vehicles.

DRDO with this mission has demonstrated capabilities for (developing and delivering) highly complex technology that will serve as the building block for next-gen hypersonic vehicles in partnership with industry. India first tested the HSTDV last year in June. Present test was conducted from the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast.

HSTDV in Detail

The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a previously tested solid rocket motor, which propelled it to an altitude of 30 km where the aerodynamic heat shields separated at hypersonic speeds.

The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake (channel) opened as planned. The hypersonic combustion (was) sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound i.e. nearly 2 km/s for more than 20s. The critical events like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity.

The scramjet engine performed in the expected manner. The parameters of launch and cruise vehicle, including scramjet engine was monitored by multiple tracking radars, electro-optical systems and telemetry stations.

As per the report, this is a dual-use technology Project, with civilian applications. While it can be used to launch small satellites at a much lower cost, it will be used for launching long-range cruise missiles.

The need to develop these hypersonic engines is important as it will propel launch vehicles at a velocity that cannot be achieved from traditional turbine-powered jet engines. The Scramjet integrated vehicle using hydrocarbon fuel has been tested for its performance, and aerodynamics. HSTDV is expected to have a flight duration of 20 seconds at an altitude of 31 km.

Guarded by Anti-ballistic air defence systems, these platforms are likely to perform precision strikes.

Developed by DRDO, with help from Israel and the UK, sources claim that Russia which has done major research in hypersonic propulsion has also played a critical role in this project.

Significance for India

With successful testing, India has become the fourth country in the world to have successfully developed this technology, Russia and China are the leaders in the technology, with the US following them. India intends to have its own hypersonic missiles in the next five years. The HSTDV, which failed testing last year, was launched to an altitude of 30 km using a tested solid rocket motor, there, it achieved a speed six times that of sound or nearly 7,410 km/hour. The first milestone in India’s HSTDV development was reported in 2004 by the Defence Research & Development Organisation.

The organisation hopes that the successful testing of the technology will serve as the foundational blocks for developing advanced hypersonic vehicles in partnership with the nations.

With nuclear payload capability, the indigenous hypersonic technology should position India as a nation with both deterrence and attack capability when it comes to superfast martial action. Present testing demonstrated the capabilities of India’s scramjet technology that powers hypersonic cruise missiles.

Conclusion

The successful flight test of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), will lead to the development of hypersonic cruise missiles and vehicles in future.

It’s a major technological breakthrough in the country. This testing paves the way for development of more critical technologies, materials and hypersonic vehicles. This puts India in a select club of nations that have demonstrated this technology. Given these missiles have to stay below a height of 100,000 feet, versus hypersonic glide vehicles that can go higher, India will need to work on developing the latter too.

Connecting the Article

Question for Prelims

With reference to the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle, recently tested by DRDO, consider the following statements:

1. It can flight by eight times faster than the speed of sound.
2. It has a capability to carry nuclear payload.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Question for Mains

Discuss the parameters of military technological development for the defence of India in present global order.

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