India on Saturday successfully completed the first unmanned test flight in its ambitious human space flight mission Gaganyaan, less than two hours after the launch was aborted with just four seconds to go for the lift-off.
After some tense moments following a system monitoring anomaly and two weather-related holds, the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) said scientists simulated an abort situation for the Crew Escape System (CES) to carry the Crew Module(CM) out of the test vehicle TV-D1.
The module to test the safety of crew in emergency situations descended using parachutes for a splashdown into the Bay of Bengal with planned precision, the space agency said.
ISRO chief S Somanath said the crew module has been fully recovered from the sea and it has been brought to Chennai port.
“Eastern Naval Command units recovered the Crew Module a path paved by extensive planning, training of Naval divers, formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and joint communication by combined teams of Navy and ISRO,” the Indian Navy said in a statement in the evening. The Navy, on its X handle, also shared pictures of its personnel recovering the module from the waters, about 10 km from the coast of Sriharikota.
The successful key test in the country’s manned space programme was greeted with cheers at ISRO’s Mission Control Centre(MCC) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The test essentially involved launching the empty CM into outer space, bringing the module back to earth and recovering it from the sea after touchdown.
The Test Vehicle mission is a significant milestone for the overall Gaganyaan programme as a nearly complete system was integrated for a flight test.
Saturday’s flight was the first of the two abort missions planned to test the safety mechanisms that will allow the Gaganyaan crew to leave the spacecraft in an emergency. It came close to two months after the successful soft landing of India’s unmanned moon mission Chandrayaan-3 on August 23.
The crew module is where the astronauts will be stationed in a pressurised earth-like atmospheric condition during the Gaganyaan mission. For the 34.9 metre tall rocket TV-D1, the CM was an unpressurised version, the ISRO said.
India plans to send up to three astronauts into space on a Low Earth Orbit of 400 km for three days and bring them safely back to the Earth as part of the Gaganyaan mission likely to be launched in 2025.
Officials said the entire mission lasted for about 20-25 minutes with precise separation of the CM from the rocket which happened around 9 minutes after lift-off at 10 am. The separation of the CM was planned at an altitude of 16.9 km from the ground.
Saturday’s mission is the first of a series of tests of systems and procedures by the ISRO with the aim to ultimately launch an Indian astronaut into space. (PTI)