Preparations on for Gaganyaan crew escape system test: VSSC Director S. Unnikrishnan Nair

The unmanned test is intended to demonstrate ISRO’s capability to safely recover the Gaganyaan crew in the event of an in-flight decision to abort the mission

September 04, 2023 09:00 pm | Updated 09:01 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

After successfully launching Aditya-L1, India’s first mission to study the sun, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for another complex task. Preparations are in full swing for testing the crew escape system and crew module of the Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission using a specially designed test vehicle, S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director of ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), said on Monday.

The Test Vehicle D-1/Crew Escape System mission can be expected in the second half of October, Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair, who is back in Thiruvananthapuram after the Aditya-L1 launch, told The Hindu. The unmanned test, which will be carried out in transonic speeds, is intended to demonstrate ISRO’s capability to safely recover the Gaganyaan crew in the event of an in-flight decision to abort the mission.

At Sriharikota

All the ‘hardware’ for the test, including the test vehicle, escape system and crew module, have arrived at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, where the assembly is in progress. Ahead of the actual crewed Gaganyaan mission, ISRO is performing a series of tests to qualify the crew escape system, a critical technology for safe human spaceflight.

The test vehicle (TV-D1) is a single-stage vehicle derived from a single L-40 strap-on booster of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Atop it will perch the crew escape system-crew module configuration.

After lift-off from Sriharikota, the vehicle will soar to transonic conditions (Transonic speeds range from Mach 0.8 to 1.2). At around Mach 1.2 speed, the test vehicle propulsion will be shut down and the crew escape system will be activated by firing four high-altitude escape motors.

“The escape system will separate with the crew module, and shortly afterwards, the crew module will be released. It will deploy multiple parachutes and splash down in the sea,’‘ Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair said.

The beauty of this expendable test vehicle, developed jointly by ISRO facilities, is that it has been designed as a ‘multi-utility vehicle’ which will serve as a platform for cost-effective testing of different technologies, he said. In future, the space agency also plans to use it for demonstrating rocket stage recovery capability and scramjet propulsion.

On July 5, 2018, ISRO had successfully carried out the Pad Abort Test (PAT), a 259-second mission for testing the ability to safely recover the Gaganyaan crew module in the event of an emergency at the launch pad.

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