TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Gaganyaan : In mission mode, says ISRO
- Four pilots from the Indian Air Force (IAF) will leave for Russia this month to receive training as astronauts of Gaganyaan, the first Indian crewed flight to space.
- It is a ₹10,000-crore Indian human space flight scheduled for 2022.
- The chosen astronauts will be sent to space on-board Gaganyaan, a crew capsule, to be launched with the help of Geo-Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV)
- If Gaganyaan is successful, India would become the fourth nation to achieve the feat
- India has signed agreements with Russia and France for cooperation on the Gaganyaan mission.
- DRDO signed MoUs with ISRO to offer technologies for the mission, including space food, survival kits for crew, radiation protection equipment and parachutes.
- India’s first man in space Rakesh Sharma, who flew aboard the Soyuz T-11, launched on 2 April 1984, was an Indian Air Force pilot.
Background and Timeline: From an idea to a plan
- Preparations have been going on since 2004, when the manned space mission was first endorsed by the ISRO Policy Planning Committee; there was lack of clarity on when exactly the mission would be launched, the target initially in was 2015.
- 2004: ISRO Policy Planning Committee recommends manned space mission
- 2006: National committee comprising 80 scientists and technocrats endorses proposal
- 2007: First public announcement of the human space programme
- 2009: Another experts’ committee, discusses the desirability and feasibility of the programme and expresses support
- 2010: Failure of GSLV-D3 and Failure of GSLV-F06
- 2014: Successful testing of experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III; this also successfully tests an experimental crew module, demonstrating re-entry capability
- June 2017: First ‘developmental’ flight of GSLV Mk-III
- July 2018: First successful flight of the crew escape system or “pad abort” test.
- August 15, 2018: Prime Minister announces manned mission to take place before 2022
- A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
- In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
- For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
- Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required, but many others are still to be developed and tested.
The rocket: GSLV Mk-III
- The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
- ISRO’s main launch vehicle, the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), which carried the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions too, can carry payloads that are barely up to 2 tonnes, and that too only to orbits at about 600 km altitude from the Earth’s surface.
- That is why the development of GSLV Mk-III, a launch vehicle with capabilities to deliver much heavier payloads much deeper into space, was necessary.
- After three decades of efforts, mainly concentrated at developing an indigenous cryogenic engine to power the rocket, ISRO successfully tested GSLV Mk-III, now called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3), in an experimental flight in December 2014.
- June 2017, ISRO successfully launched the first “developmental” flight of LVM-3, which carried the GSAT-19 satellite into space.
- The LVM-3 is the declared launch vehicle for taking the manned crew module into space. Over the next few years, many more flights of GSLV are scheduled.
Re-entry & recovery tech
- The satellites launched by ISRO including Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, normally meant to remain in space, even when their life is over.
- Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous re-entry and recovery ability.
- While re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures, which is created due to friction.
- Also, the spacecraft needs to renter the atmosphere at a very precise speed and angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster.
- The first successful experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III on December 18, 2014, also involved the successful testing of an experimental crew module that came back to Earth after being taken to an altitude of 126 km into space.
- The Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere at about 80 km altitude and landed in the sea near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Crew Escape System
- This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
- The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
- Recently, ISRO completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system. A simulated crew module weighing about 3.5 tonnes was launched from Sriharikota.
- The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
- The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts.
- The ECLSS maintains a steady cabin pressure and air composition, removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, controls temperature and humidity, and manages parameters like fire detection and suppression, food and water management, and emergency support.
- While the design and configuration of the ECLSS and the inside of the crew module has been finalised, other components and systems are in the process of being tested.
- Ground testing will have to be followed by tests in the space orbit while simulating zero gravity and deep vacuum.
- In the early part of the planning, a proposal for setting up an astronaut training centre in Bangalore was floated. Initially targeted by 2012, it is yet to take off.
- While ISRO still plans to set up a permanent facility, the selected candidates for the first manned mission will most likely train at a foreign facility.
- Candidates will need to train for at least two years in living in zero gravity and dealing with a variety of unexpected experiences of living in space.
- Some training would also be imparted at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Indian Air Force at Bengaluru.
- During the early years of planning, the cost of India’s first manned space mission was estimated at about Rs 12,400 crore. But that was for a mission to be launched in 2015.
- The mission would now be completed for less than Rs 10,000 crore.
- Recently, the government approved the funding for the next 10 flights of GSLV Mk-III at an estimated cost of Rs 4,338.2 crore. This was supposed to take care of GSLV Mk-III missions till 2024.
- If India does launch the Gaganyaan mission, it will be the fourth nation to do so after the United States, Russia and China.
- These developments will help ISRO in perfecting the cryogenic technology for sending up heavier and heavier payloads and will reduce India’s dependency on other countries to launch heavier satellites.
Connecting the dots:
- What advantages would India’s proposed manned mission to space bring to the society?
- Do you think this mission makes India the world leader in space mission?