The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) celebrated a significant achievement on Saturday with the flawless launch of its inaugural Test Vehicle for the Gaganyaan mission, India’s ambitious endeavor in human space flight. This remarkable launch occurred at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
India’s inaugural rocket dedicated to its human space mission, known as Test Vehicle-D1 (TV-D1), successfully lifted off at precisely 10 a.m. on Saturday, overcoming initial delays. The launch took place from the primary launch pad at the rocket port.
Originally slated for an 8 a.m. liftoff, unfavorable weather conditions and limited visibility prompted a rescheduling to 8:45 a.m. However, the actual launch transpired at 10 a.m. following the resolution of technical issues.
The mission, named Flight Test Vehicle Abort Mission-1 (TV-D1), aimed to demonstrate the crew escape system, an indispensable safety feature for astronauts. This system ensures the safe return of astronauts to Earth in the event of any issues with the rocket carrying the crew module.
The crew escape system operates on a principle analogous to the ejection seats used by fighter pilots. It allows the crew module, with astronauts on board, to separate from the rocket and make a controlled splashdown at sea using parachutes.
The Gaganyaan, India’s inaugural human space mission, is scheduled for 2025. The testing of the crew escape system is a critical step in ensuring the mission’s safety.
The Saturday flight primarily centered on demonstrating and evaluating the subsystems of the test vehicle, the crew escape system, separation systems, crew module characteristics, and deceleration systems at higher altitudes.
The test vehicle, measuring approximately 35 meters in height and weighing approximately 44 tonnes, utilizes a modified Vikas engine powered by liquid fuel. The crew module and crew escape system are located at the front of the rocket.
The entire flight sequence, from liftoff to the controlled touchdown of the crew module in the sea with deployed parachutes, unfolds over approximately 531 seconds, roughly nine minutes.
The crew module, weighing 4,520 kg, is an unpressurized, single-walled aluminum structure. The separation of the test vehicle/rocket and the crew escape system takes place around 61 seconds into the flight, at an altitude of 11.9 km. At 91 seconds following liftoff, at an altitude of 16.9 km, the crew module and crew escape system separate.
Subsequently, the autonomous initiation of the abort sequence commences. This sequence begins with the separation of the crew escape system and the deployment of a series of parachutes, culminating in the safe touchdown of the crew module in the sea, approximately 10 km from the coast of Sriharikota, as outlined by ISRO.
The crew module is intended to serve as a pressurized, Earth-like environment for astronauts during the actual Gaganyaan mission. While the crew module for Gaganyaan is currently in various stages of development, the TV-D1 is an unpressurized version that mimics the size and mass of the actual Gaganyaan crew module.
The test mission included an extensive array of instrumentation to capture flight data for evaluating system performance. The deceleration of the crew module will be achieved through parachute deployment, initiated at an altitude of approximately 17 km.
Recovery ships will approach the crew module in the sea, where a team of divers will attach a buoy, hoist it using a ship crane, and transport it to the shore. The crew escape system will splash down about 14 km from Sriharikota.
This Test Vehicle mission, featuring the integrated crew module, represents a significant milestone in the Gaganyaan program. Its success lays the foundation for further qualification tests and unmanned missions, ultimately leading to the first Gaganyaan mission with Indian astronauts, as indicated by ISRO.