Once people have done something for the first time, it becomes much easier to do it again and again in novel ways. I mention this, because, just this week, the great nation of India tested their own scaled-down and scaled-back prototype version of a space shuttle. ISRO (The India Space Research Organization) fired a 7m-scale model lander about 70km (43 miles) into the atmosphere from a spaceport in took off from Andhra Pradesh. The craft was launched atop a HS9 solid rocket booster. It is unclear whether the organization has recovered the prototype or not.
The Indian spaceplane program is proceeding on a tiny budget which would make NASA (or even SpaceX) wince. The little prototype cost the equivalent of $14 million dollars. However the Indian government has big plans: within 15 years they hope to build a full scale Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV-TD) capable of repeatedly going into orbit and then returning through Earth’s atmosphere to land safely. Since NASA has been working on projects very different from spaceplanes, I am glad to see that somebody else is still working on the concept. I will be extremely curious to watch the progress of this Indian offspring of the original shuttle program which was such a triumphant and tragic centerpiece of space exploration during my childhood.