India has successfully launched a low-price, reusable shuttle prototype

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May 23, 2016

With NASA seemingly in distress, other countries are starting to look into space exploration — and India is trying to figure out how to do it right, but on the cheap. We’re happy to report things are off to a great start.

The BBC reports India’s space agency has successfully launched a reusable, prototype shuttle into space. The unmanned Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV-TD) launched early Monday morning, reached an altitude of 43 miles, then returned to Earth. Here’s the cool part: India has been developing the RLV-TD for about a decade, but the project has only cost approximately $14 million — which is probably more than NASA’s office-supply budget any given year.

The model launched in the test flight was just 23 feet long, about six times smaller than the full version the government plans to build and launch within the next decade. The test flight was designed to gather valuable intel on reentry, autonomous navigation and traveling at hypersonic speeds.

This is just the latest big win for India’s low-cost space program, after a successful 2014 mission to place a spacecraft in Mars orbit. That project was pulled off for a relatively small $74 million, which again is chump change for most major space programs. Give it a few years, and India could certainly be a major player in supplying low-cost space tech to larger countries, or heck, maybe they’ll just keep running their own programs.

Check out some shots from the launch below: