India has successfully tested its first small space shuttle as part of its efforts to make low-cost reusable spacecraft. The Indian Space Research Organization says a rocket carrying the mini-shuttle lifted off from a launch pad in southern India on Monday and completed a successful 13-minute test flight. Space expert Pallava Bagla says the test paves the way for India to embark on low-cost space missions, the AP reports. He says the United States and some other countries have abandoned the use of winged reusable spacecraft, but India hopes to bring down the cost of access to space by 90% by using reusable vehicles.
"We are very excited," an ISRO spokesman tells CNN. "The team has been working on the project for the past 10 years, with the past five spent on designing the actual model." But he warns that it could be a long time before full-sized Indian space shuttles see the light of day. "This is just an experiment, which is a baby step to the final reusable launch vehicle, which will take years to realize," he says. (In 2014, India sent a probe to Mars at a fraction of the cost of similar American or European missions.)