India is about to launch a key test rocket for crewed flight

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is only three days away from launching a key test in its crewed mission.

The mission called ‘Gaganyaan’ – which translates from Sanskrit to ‘celestial vehicle’ – is intended to be India’s first human spaceflight.

But the single-stage rocket being launched on Saturday though isn’t going to have any astronauts aboard. Instead, the ISRO will launch an empty capsule to simulate an abort scenario. This is to ensure that the crewed mission in 2024 is as safe as possible.

“The payloads consist of the Crew Module and Crew Escape Systems with their fast-acting solid motors, along with Crew Module fairing and Interface Adapters,” ISRO notes in a press release.

“This flight will simulate the abort condition during the ascent trajectory corresponding to a Mach number of 1.2 encountered in the Gaganyaan mission.”

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Payload and equipment for the test flight. Credit: ISRO

The two pieces will separate at about 17 kilometres above the ground, and the abort sequence will begin, launching parachutes to safely glide the crew module back to touchdown in the Bay of Bengal.

The launch is currently scheduled for the 21 October between 7-9 am IST (12:30 -2:30pm AEDT) but as all flights, it may be changed depending on the weather.

“This Test Vehicle mission with this crew module is a significant milestone for the overall Gaganyaan programme as a near-complete system is integrated for a flight test,” the ISRO notes in a statement.   “The success of this test flight will set the stage for the remaining qualification tests and unmanned missions, leading to the first Gaganyaan mission with Indian Astronauts.”

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