Earlier today (21 October), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took the first step towards launching the country's first crewed space mission, a feat it plans to achieve by the end of 2025.
A little after 9 am today, the liquid-propelled single-stage rocket, which uses a modified VIKAS engine, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota with the Crew Module of the Gaganyaan mission and the Crew Escape System atop it.
The primary objective of the mission was to evaluate the functionality of the Crew Escape System installed on the crew module for the Gaganyaan mission. In essence, this mission aimed to assess the safety mechanism designed to facilitate the safe evacuation of the Gaganyaan crew in the event of a mission abort caused by a malfunction.
How It Happened
After its brief but majestic lift-off, the rocket took a version of the Gaganyaan Crew Module to a height of about 17 kilometers.
In this test flight, the goal was to simulate an abort scenario that mirrors the ascent trajectory during the Gaganyaan mission when it reaches a Mach number of 1.2. At an altitude of approximately 17 km, the Crew Escape System detached from the Test Vehicle.
Following this, an autonomous abort sequence was initiated, starting with the separation of the Crew Escape System and the deployment of a series of parachutes. This sequence ultimately resulted in the Crew Module making a safe landing in the sea, roughly 10 km off the coast of Sriharikota.
An Indian Navy team led the recovery of the TV-D1 Crew Module after splashdown. Recovery ships positioned at a safe range in sea waters approached the Crew Module, and a team of divers attached a buoy. They hoisted the Crew Module using a ship crane and brought it to the shore.
The Crew Module is the space where astronauts are housed within a pressurized, Earth-like atmospheric environment during the Gaganyaan mission. The development of the Crew Module for the Gaganyaan mission is in various stages. In the case of the Test Vehicle Abort mission-1 (TV-D1), the Crew Module is an unpressurized variant that has undergone integration and testing, and is now prepared for transport to the launch complex.
The unpressurized Crew Module version used in this test closely matches the size and mass of the actual Gaganyaan Crew Module and contains all the necessary systems for deceleration and recovery, including a full complement of parachutes, recovery aids actuation systems, and pyrotechnics.
Crew Escape System
The Crew Escape System is a fundamental safety mechanism incorporated into spacecraft to safeguard astronauts in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent.
Its primary function is to swiftly and securely evacuate the crew from the spacecraft in the case of an abort, which could be triggered by various potential life-threatening situations or malfunctions.
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