TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Awareness in the field of Space – Space Missions
- Indigenization of technology and developing new technology
- Gaganyaan is the human space flight programme under which Indian astronauts will go into space by 2022.This will be done by using its own capabilities.
- A GSLV-Mk III launch vehicle will lift them to their orbit, which has the necessary payload capability to launch a three-member crew module in low earth orbit.
- If successful, India would become the fourth nation to conduct a human space flight programme after USSR/Russia, USA and China. It is a ₹10,000-crore Indian human space flight scheduled for 2022.
- 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.
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
- To build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
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.
A. 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.
B. 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.
C. Life support
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.
D. Space Communication
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it aims to launch its own satellite pair for space communication purposes, called Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS). It will be pivotal in helping ISRO’s ground control room to uniformly monitor the space crew and communicate with them at any given point of time, and can be used in both low orbit missions and farther missions such as those to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Conclusion: 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?
- Highlight the achievements of ISRO in the area of indigenisation of technology.