The RLV-TD winged body spacecraft takes off Monday morning.

For the last several years, India has been making steady progress with its space program, including the successful insertion of a spacecraft into Mars orbit in 2014, something previously only the United States, Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency had accomplished.

At 7am local time, the HS9 solid rocket booster fired for 91.1 seconds, lifting the RLV-TD winged body spacecraft to above 50km.

After separating from the booster, the spacecraft crested to an altitude of 65km, nearly two-thirds of the way to outer space, before beginning its descent.

Enlarge / The RLV-TD vehicle on the ground, before being mated to its booster

The RLV-TD flown Monday will not be recovered from the sea, but the 1.75-ton vehicle will undergo successive test flights during the coming years to demonstrate landing capability.

ISRO must also continue development of an air-breathing scramjet engine that will help power the vehicle all the way into space.

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