What are the some design features of Indian Human spaceflight Programme's Gaganyaan capsule?
How much of the testing is done and what are its future plans?


1 Answer 1


The Indian Human Space Flight Programme "Gaganyaan" (Sanskrit: गगनयान, "Sky Vehicle")

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Number of Crew member:

Gaganyaan is a fully autonomous 3.7-tonne (8,200 lb) spacecraft designed to carry a 3-member crew to orbit and safely return to the Earth.

Mission details:

Mission duration of up to seven days. ISRO is yet to give any further comprehensive report of its intensions. Some reports suggests that ISRO is heading for international collaborations with the US, Russia, China and Japan.
India has previously had many collaborations with Russia when it used Russian Cryogenic Upper stages in GSLV MK-1.It is currently collaborating with JAXA(Sukrayaan source) and French Space Agency. source

The designing of Docking Ports also suggests this. Although lately:
On 13 June 2019, ISRO Chief K. Sivan announced the plan, saying that India's space station will be deployed in 5-7 years after completion of Gaganyaan project. He also said that India will not join the International Space Station program. The space station would be capable of harbouring a crew for 15-20 days at a time. It is expected to be placed in a low Earth orbit of 400 km altitude and be capable of harbouring three humans.

Mission Plan:

Completed :

Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE – 1): 22nd January 2007 (orbital)(Succesful)
Re-entry Test: 18 December 2014 (Sub-orbital)(Successful)

Pad Abort Test: 5 July 2018 (Atmospheric)(Successful)

Planned :

Test Flight 1:
December 2020 (LEO)

Test Flight 2:
July 2021 (LEO)

Crewed Flight 1:
December 2021 LEO Crew: 1

Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE – 1)

The Space capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1) launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C7) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota on January 10, 2007 was successfully recovered today (January 22, 2007) after being maneuvered to reenter the earth's atmosphere and descend over Bay of Bengal about 140 km East of Sriharikota.Source

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It was a 550 kg capsule intended to demonstrate the technology of an orbiting platform for performing experiments in micro gravity conditions. After completion of the experiments, the capsule was de-orbited and recovered. SRE – 1 mission provided a valuable experience in fields like navigation, guidance and control during the re-entry phase, hypersonic aero thermodynamic, development of reusable thermal protection system (TPS), recovery through deceleration and flotation, besides acquisition of basic technology for reusable launch vehicles.

Since its launch, SRE-1 was going round the earth in a circular polar orbit at an altitude of 637 km. In preparation for its reentry, SRE-1 was put into an elliptical orbit with a perigee of 485 km and an apogee of 639 km by issuing commands from the Spacecraft Control Centre (SCC) of ISTRAC at Bangalore on January 19, 2007. The critical de-boost operations were executed from SCC, Bangalore.

Today, January 22, 2007, the re-orientation of SRE-1 capsule for de-boost operations commenced at 08:42 am (IST). The de-boost started at 09:00 am with the firing of on-board rocket motors and the operations were completed at 09:10 am. At 09:17 am, SRE-1 capsule was reoriented for its re-entry into the dense atmosphere. The capsule made its re-entry at 09:37 am at an altitude of 100 km with a velocity of 8 km/sec (29,000 km per hour). During its reentry, the capsule was protected from the intense heat by carbon phenolic ablative material and silica tiles on its outer surface.Source

By the time SRE-1 descended to an altitude of 5 km, aerodynamic breaking had considerably reduced its velocity to 101 m/sec (363 km per hour). Pilot and drogue parachute deployments helped in further reducing its velocity to 47 m/sec (about 170 km per hour).

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The main parachute was deployed at about 2 km altitude and finally, SRE-1 splashed down in the Bay of Bengal with a velocity of 12 m/sec (about 43 km per hour) at 09:46 am. The flotation system, which immediately got triggered, kept the capsule floating. Recovery operations were supported and carried out by the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy using ships, aircraft and helicopters.

SRE – 1 carries two experiments, an Isothermal Heating Furnace (IHF) and a Bio-mimetic experiment. SRE was launched into a 635 km polar SSO in January 2007 as a co-passenger with CARTOSAT -2 and stayed in orbit for 10 days during which its payloads performed the operations they are intended to. The SRE capsule was de-boosted and recovered successfully back on earth on 22nd January 2007.

Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE)

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It was launched on 18 December 2014 at 04:00 UTC. The crew module was separated at the intended height of 126 km and a speed of 5300 m/s. It entered a coast phase during which it performed three axis control manoeuvres in order to ensure zero degree angle of attack at reentry.

The ballistic reentry started from an altitude of about 80 km. At this altitude, the propulsion was shut down. The heat shield experienced temperatures around 1,000 degrees C and the capsule experienced deceleration of up to 13 g. source

This awesome paper is based on CARE reentry and its aerodynamics.

Crew Module and Service module features:

Development of the Orbital Vehicle began in 2006. The original plan was for a two-crew conical Gemini-type spacecraft with an endurance of a week in space. The full-scale design was finalized by March 2008, and funded from February 2009. A mock-up was delivered in 2009. First manned flight was to be in 2013, then 2016. The project suffered from low funding, and by 2014, despite a suborbital test of a capsule boilerplate, no date was announced for the first full-up unmanned or manned flight. Availability of funding would determine whether that could occur before 2000 or if the project would be abandoned.

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As of 2015 the design utilized a Soyuz-shaped reentry capsule with a mass of 3735 kg, a diameter of 3.100 m and height of 2.678 m. The ablative reentry shield consisted of carbon phenolic tiles, with tan medium density ablative tiles covering the rest of the outer surface. After re-entry, at a velocity of 233 m/s, a pair of 2.3 meter diameter pilot parachutes stabilized the capsule. This was followed by a pair of 6.2 m diameter drogue parachutes, which reduced the velocity to 50 m/s. At 5 km altitude three 31-m diameter main parachutes deployed. The capsule was designed to splash down in the ocean followed by recovery by Indian naval vessels. The reaction control system consisted of six 100-N thrusters burning MMH / MON3 storable propellants. The capsule was designed to initially accomodate two astronauts on long-duration solo missions. The design allowed later modification to carry three on short-duration shuttle missions to an orbiting space station.source

The mock-up crew capsule used during care mission also give some idea about the actual one:.

The crew module was mounted upside-down inside the payload fairing of the GSLV Mk 3. CARE was made of aluminium alloy and had a lift-off mass of 3,735 kg. Its diameter was 3100 mm and its height was 2698 mm. The module had an ablative thermal protection. The side panels were covered with Medium Density Ablative (MDA) tiles and the forward heat shield was made of carbon phenolic tiles. It was powered by batteries and was equipped with six liquid-propellant (MMH/MON3) 100 N thrusters. source

Launch mass: 7,800 kg (17,200 lb) (includes service module)
Dry mass: 3,735 kg (8,234 lb) Crew capacity : 3 Dimensions Diameter: 3.5 m (11 ft)
Height: 3.58 m (11.7 ft)
Volume : 8 m3 (280 cu ft)
Power : Photovoltaic array
Regime: Low Earth orbit

Its service module is powered by two liquid propellant engines. The crew module is mated to the service module, and together they are called the orbital module.
Based on the payload capability of the GSLV-Mark-3( Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk 3) booster, the service module would have a mass of about 3 tonnes (6,600 lb).

The space capsule will have life support and environmental control systems. It will be equipped with emergency mission abort and emergency escape that can be done at the first stage or second stage of the rocket burn. The nose of the original version of the orbital vehicle was free for a docking mechanism, but primary entry was evidently through a side hatch secured by explosive bolts. source

Escape System:

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ISRO has successfully conducted a pad abort test to validate its launch escape system for effective crew extraction in an unlikely event of an emergency. The tests were conducted successfully on 5 July 2018 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This was the first of a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology. Work on parachute enlargement and new architecture are also going on. Parachute tests are scheduled before end of 2019 and multiple in-flight abort tests are planned starting mid 2020 using a liquid fueled test vehicle.

The launch escape tower has 4 Low Altitude Escape Motors and 4 High Altitude Escape Motors. It also has 4 Grid Fins AeroStabilisers for some maneuverability.
The very top part houses a Pitch Control Motor and a Jettisoning Motor assembly.

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A new test vehicle has been designed in early 2020 for validation of crew escape system. The vehicle has been built for in-flight escape of crew and possess propulsion on top of the module to take the module away to a safe distance.
The crew module reached a highest altitude of 2.75 km (1.71 mi), it later safely parachuted down and floated in the Bay of Bengal 2.9 km (1.80 mi) away from its launch site. It was carried skyward using seven solid-fueled rocket motors keeping within the safe g-force limits. Later recovery boats were sent to recover the crew module. The total duration of the test mission was 259 seconds. The test launch process was recorded by around 300 sensors .Main objectives of test were nominal 20 second ascent and 200 seconds of descent, not including the splashdown. Chute detachment was a scheduled event occurring around 259.4 seconds after launch as intended.


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