The Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) takes flight (Image: ISRO)

Early this morning, India launched its very first reusable space shuttle. These remarkable photos illustrate just how majestic the teensy shuttle looked as it took off.

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One of the things these photos underscore is the scale of the launch. NASA’s space shuttle orbiters each measured over 122 feet in length, and the cost of just one shuttle, Endeavour, came in at over $1 billion. At 22 feet, ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) is a little guy, and its $14 million price tag is similarly minuscule. Yet there’s nothing small about the launch itself. It’s a huge milestone for India and for the growth of reusable spacecraft worldwide.

The entire flight lasted for just 770 seconds. Earlier reports predicted that the shuttle wasn’t expected to survive the landing attempt. Now, ISRO scientists say that they managed to guide the craft into a soft descent into the Bay of Bengal, where it appears to be intact.

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[ISRO]

Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image:ISRO
Image: ISRO
Image: ISRO