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Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV): Explained

The first test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) was done in June 2019. On 7 September, 2020 (Monday) DRDO successfully conducted a test flight of the indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha. India is now among four countries i.e. the US, Russia and China who possess the technology.

The Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter “With this success, all critical technologies are now established to progress to the next phase.”He also congratulated DRDO on this landmark achievement towards realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

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What is the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)?

It is developed by DRDO and is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight that can cruise up to a speed of Mach 6 that is six times the speed of sound. Basically, it is not a weapon but developed as a carrier vehicle for hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles.

Launch of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)

DRDO in a statement said that “The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a proven solid rocket motor, which took it to an altitude of 30 km, where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated at hypersonic speed.”

When the cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle, the air intake opened as planned. The hypersonic combustion continued for an extended period and the cruise missile continued on its desired flight path. That time the velocity was six times the speed of sound (nearly 02 km/second for more than 20 seconds). Some critical events such as fuel injection and scramjet’s auto-ignition demonstrated technological maturity. However, the scramjet engine performed properly.

All this like parameters of launch and cruise vehicle with scramjet engine was monitored by several tracking radars, electro-optical systems and Telemetry Stations. The scramjet engine worked at high dynamic pressure and at very high temperature.

During the cruise phase of the hypersonic vehicle, a Ship was also deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the performance. All the parameters indicated the performance and success of the mission.

Several technologies were also proven with the successful demonstration like aerodynamic configuration for hypersonic manoeuvers, use of scramjet propulsion for ignition and sustained combustion at hypersonic flow, thermo-structural characterisation of high-temperature materials, separation mechanism at hypersonic velocities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted and congratulated DRDO for successful flight of the Hypersonic Test Demonstration Vehicle. He said that the scramjet engine developed by our scientists helped the flight achieve a speed 6 times the speed of sound! Also, said that very few countries have such capability.

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What do you mean by Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) successful demonstration and its significance to India?

With the help of this technology, cruise missile could now travel at hypersonic speeds. The scramjet engine is a major breakthrough. As per the source, at supersonic speed, sir goes inside the engine and comes out at hypersonic speeds. At a certain altitude, the vehicle reaches and then cruises. Temperature also reaches very high that is up to 1,000-2000 degrees Celsius, during re-entry.

The source also pointed out that after the Anti-satellite, this is the biggest achievement that took place recently.

Now the next step of the DRDO is to move to the next stage that is designing and testing weapons in the hypersonic category. The applications that are included are extended air defence, surveillance (UAVs) and developing missiles with virtually global targeting range.

The successful demonstration strengthens the Nation’s defence system and the country enters into the hypersonic regime paving the way for advanced hypersonic vehicles.

Indian is now in an elite club but according to Rajagopalan, India will have to perfect the technology with several more tests. She further told that a hypersonic missile is a “quick reaction missile” which makes it invaluable in offensive as well as defensive uses. It can also be used to intercept incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere or in the inner atmosphere, in case of defence. It will also help in India’s ballistic missile defence capabilities.

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