As NASA prepares for the test launch of its Orion spacecraft, India awaits the first ever flight of its indigenous space capsule. Just like Orion, it will be launched in December, but the exact date has not been decided yet. The mission is a stepping stone to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) ultimately sending astronauts into space in the module. The 3.65-tonne module will get de-mated from the topmost cryogenic stage at an altitude of 125 km and return to the earth. At an altitude of 15 km, there will be an “aerial ballet,” featuring three huge parachutes which will open up one after the other to slow down the module’s descent.
The module is expected to splash down in the sea near the Andaman archipelago and will be recovered by the Indian Coast Guard and ISRO personnel. The entire flight from the lift-off to the splash-down will last about 20 minutes. It is a passive, experimental and sub-orbital mission.
ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan said, “Everything is progressing well” for the GSLV-MkIII launch in December. The rocket weighs 630 tonnes and is 42.4 metres tall.
“We are ready. Everything is pucca,” said M.C. Dathan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, which has built both the GSLV-MKIII and the unmanned crew module. Two gigantic strap-on motors, each of which will use 200 tonnes of solid propellants, have been strapped around the core stage in the second launch pad. The core stage will use 110 tonnes of liquid propellants. Above the core stage is the cryogenic stage. The module will be “encapsulated” with the cryogenic stage on November 26, said Mr. Dathan.
S. Somanath, Project Director, GSLV-MKIII, called it India’s “biggest, heaviest and the next generation” launch vehicle.