India to launch test flight for future astronaut mission

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FILE PHOTO: A security guard stands behind the logo of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at its headquarters in Bengaluru, India, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File photo

Following the successful Chandrayaan-3 moon mission and significant achievements with the Aditya-L1 sun explorer, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for another major space venture known as Gaganyaan. This mission, which means “celestial vehicle” in Sanskrit, aims to send a minimum of three astronauts into low-Earth orbit by the end of 2024, though a precise launch date is yet to be announced. What has been revealed, however, is the date for the upcoming test flight of Gaganyaan, which will assess the crew capsule’s emergency escape system.

On October 21, ISRO will launch an empty module from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India, and then safely recover it on Earth. ISRO stated that the success of this test flight will pave the way for subsequent qualification tests and unmanned missions, ultimately leading to the first Gaganyaan mission with Indian astronauts.

According to ISRO’s statement, the test Crew Module (CM) will resemble the pressurised module that will accommodate crew members during their ascent into space, but it will remain unpressurised. The test module will evaluate various other mission components, including drogue parachutes designed to stabilise and decelerate the spacecraft during re-entry, as well as recovery aid systems. The demonstration will also test a Crew Escape System (CES) to assess the emergency escape system used for ejecting astronauts if necessary.

After returning to Earth, the CM will be recovered by a diving team from the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal using a dedicated vessel. Another test flight will follow, carrying a robot into outer space. This robot, named Vyommitra (meaning “space’s friend” in Sanskrit), features a humanlike face, can communicate like a human, and is equipped with robotic arms, though it lacks robotic legs.

As of now, the CM has undergone various electrical tests in Bengaluru but is yet to undergo vibration tests with the CES and be integrated with the launch vehicle on the launch pad, according to ISRO’s statement.

Although a precise schedule has not been disclosed, the mission is anticipated to take off from India’s primary spaceport located in Sriharikota before the year 2024.

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