THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Work on the prototype of the Crew Module that is to be used in future manned space missions is nearing completion at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) here at Thumba.
The four-tonne module is to be tested aboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III), which is slated for a test flight in late October, officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
“We hope to move the prototype to Sriharikota spaceport in ten days’ time,’’ GSLV Mk-III project director S Somnath said. An important component of ISRO’s Human Spaceflight Programme, such capsules, fitted aboard rockets, are intended to carry astronauts to orbit and return them safely to earth. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was responsible for the basic structure of the dummy module, but VSSC has been handling all the critical aspects including integration, heat shields and control and guidance systems.
Since the safety of astronauts is of paramount importance, ISRO has been subjecting the prototype to gruelling tests. Among other things, the module must be able to withstand the intense heat during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
The prototype will ‘drop’ to earth from an altitude of 125 kilometres, officials of Indian Space Research Organisation said.
The main parachute on the module, which is employed to break the fall, will open at a height of 15 kilometres. ISRO plans to recover the capsule from the Bay of Bengal.
In January 2007, ISRO had successfully tested re-entry technologies with the 550 kg Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1). The testing of the dummy crew module will be a far more complicated exercise.
Some aspects that will be closely studied will be the thermal protection system required for re-entry and the control systems.
The assembly of the GSLV Mk-III, India’s biggest rocket to date, is progressing at Sriharikota for the October launch. The upper stage of the rocket will be rigged with a more powerful version of the home-made cryogenic engine used in the GSLV D-5 mission last January, but it will not be ignited during the experimental flight.