Indian space agency will send an unmanned crew module on its experimental rocket GSLV-Mark III in December as a precursor to its earth re-entry flight simulation experiments ahead of taking up manned mission to the moon soon and setting itself a very high target on space front after the successful Mangalyaan mission to Mars.
The news came hours before China has successfully experimented its first re-entry mission to the moon with its unmanned orbiter landing back on Earth, joining Russia and the US.
“We will send an unmanned crew module on the experimental GSLV-Mark III rocket in December and test its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere for a human space flight plan in future,” Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters on Thursday in Bangalore on the sidelines of 2014 Engineers Conclave
The first experimental mission of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) will take the crew module that weighs 3.6 tonnes and put it into orbit 100-120km and bring it back to Earth for checking its re-entry capabilities so as to assess the feasibility of sending two Indian astronauts in the future space flights.
The GSLV-Mk III vehicle is currently undergoing electrical tests and it is being designed differently from the PSLV or the GSLV models in order to make more atmospheric resistant while re-entering Earth from the space.It is being developed to handle heavier 4500 to 5000 kg communication satellites of INSAT-4 class.
In fact, the actual human space flight will have to be in an orbit at a height of 270km but the current experimental flight with the crew module will go up to 100-120km above earth to test its heat shield survival chances at about 1,500 degrees Celsius during the re-entry into the atmosphere.
Once the crew module re-enters into Earth’s atmosphere successfully, it will use a parachute that will open up and fall into sea for retrieval. The point of landing on the sea was being planned in the Bay of Bengal, about 450 km away from Andaman Islands, explained Dr. Radhakrishnan.
The experiment was taken up with a budget of Rs. 145 crore, and it includes developing a crew module to fly at least two Indian astronauts, their space suits, life support systems and other ingredients like space-compliant food that was tested by the Mysore-based Institute of Food Technology.
The GSLV-Mark III heavy rocket will use liquid nitrogen at super cooled temperature and gaseous nitrogen instead of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, he said. The crew module will be assembled and lifted off from the Sriharikota tation in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 km northeast of Chennai, from where the Mars Orbiter Mission was sent.
The exact timing of the launch of GSLV-Mark III will depend on weather conditions, data analysis, fine-tuning the new vehicle.
The GSLV-III helps in launching heavier communication satellites of INSAT-4 class, which weigh 4500 to 5000 kg. It would also enhance the space agency’s capability to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market.
The vehicle envisages multi-mission launch capability for GTO, LEO, Polar and intermediate circular orbits and is designed to be a three stage vehicle, with 42.4 m tall with a lift off weight of 630 tonnes.
First stage comprises two identical S200 Large Solid Booster (LSB) with 200 tonne solid propellant, that are strapped on to the second stage, the L110 re-startable liquid stage and the third stage is the C25 LOX/LH2 cryo stage.
The large payload measures 5 metres in diameter to accommodate a volume of 100 cubic metres to put in orbit heavier satellites.