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For safety of Gaganyaan crew, ISRO will simulate failure with ‘abort missions’

The ISRO chief, S Somanath, pointed out that while the main purpose of the Gaganyaan mission is to demonstrate India’s capability, it is also the first step toward an Indian Space Station in the future.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 20, 2022 7:40:46 am
The second Test Vehicle will be launched in December this year, sent to a greater height and then brought back after a similar simulation is carried out.

ISRO will conduct two unmanned “abort missions”, one in September and the other in December, to simulate failure and ensure crew safety as part of its roadmap for Gaganyaan, the country’s first manned flight to space, in 2024, ISRO chairman S Somanath told The Indian Express.

“Our first priority is human safety. So, we are now focusing on abort missions — that is simulating failures and bringing the crew back safely under those circumstances. The first Test Vehicle for this purpose is ready and we will launch it in September this year. The human capsule will be sent up 15 kilometres, we will simulate an abort and then the capsule will be safely brought down by parachutes into the sea,’’ Somanath, who is also Secretary, Department of Space, said.

The second Test Vehicle will be launched in December this year, sent to a greater height and then brought back after a similar simulation is carried out.

“We are intentionally delaying the manned mission as this is a very dangerous mission. If this is not successful, then the entire project may even have to be closed down. So, we have to be extremely accurate and absolutely sure. An unsuccessful mission will have a very bad impact on the system as well as on ISRO,’’ Somnath said.

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The ISRO chief pointed out that while the main purpose of the Gaganyaan mission is to demonstrate India’s capability, it is also the first step toward an Indian Space Station in the future.

“More and more human activity is likely to shift to space over the coming decades, he said. “For instance, 3D printing of organs is emerging as one of the biggest sectors that will shift to space in the future, as zero-gravity is the perfect condition for growing organs,’’ he said.

Last week, ISRO carried out the launch of the HS 200 rocket booster in Sriharikota as a part of the first stage of Gaganyan. The HS200 booster, which was 20 m long with a 3.2 m diameter, was loaded with 203 tonnes of solid propellant and tested for a 135-second duration.

The mission, which will carry three Indians into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), was pushed back due to the pandemic — it was initially to be launched this year, coinciding with 75 years of India’s independence.

“There has been a large impact due to the Covid pandemic — the production of various systems gets affected and the restart takes time. We have lost one-and-a-half years because of Covid. Europe was severely affected and thereby the production and supply chains were disrupted, and we needed to acquire many parts from these countries, including electronics and computer chips. There was also a restriction on expenditure due to Covid,’’ Somanath said.

According to ISRO, the Rs 9,023-crore Gaganyaan programme “will lay the foundation for a sustained Indian human space exploration programme in the long run’’.

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