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Gaganyaan: ISRO tests parachutes that will bring Indian astronauts to Earth from space

In a major development for the Gaganyaan mission, an Integrated Main Parachute Airdrop Test (IMAT) of its crew module deceleration system was conducted at the Babina Field Fire Range (BFFR) in Uttar Pradesh.

A day after it successfully launched India’s first privately made rocket, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has completed a major developmental test of the Gaganyaan mission. Gaganyaan is India’s first manned mission to space expected to launch next year.

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) conducted the “Integrated Main Parachute Airdrop Test (IMAT)" of its crew module deceleration system at the Babina Field Fire Range (BFFR) in the Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. The test is significant given India’s plans to launch the first astronaut mission from the soil by next year.

A 5-ton dummy mass, equivalent to the Crew module mass, was taken to an altitude of 2.5 kilometres and dropped using the Indian Air force’s IL-76 aircraft. Two small pyro-based mortar-deployed pilot parachutes, then pulled the Main parachutes.

“For Gaganyaan Crew module, the Parachute system consists of a total of 10 parachutes. In flight, the parachute sequence starts with deployment of 2 Nos. of Apex cover separation parachutes (protection cover for the Crew Module Parachute compartment) followed by 2 Nos. of Drogue parachute deployment to stabilize & bring down the velocity,” ISRO said.

The Indian space agency further added that two of the three main chutes are sufficient to land the astronauts on earth, and the third is redundant. Meanwhile, each parachute's performance must be evaluated by complex testing methods using Rail Track Rocket Sled (RTRS) tests for smaller Parachutes and Aircraft/ Helicopters for the Main parachutes.

The test on Saturday simulated a unique situation when one Main parachute failed to open, and it is the first in a series of tests planned to simulate different failure conditions of the parachute system before it is deemed qualified to be used in the first human spaceflight mission.

The test showed that the fully inflated Main parachutes reduced the payload speed to a safe landing speed as the entire sequence lasted about 2-3 minutes and the payload mass landed softly on the ground.

ISRO said, “Design and development of the Parachute based Deceleration system for Crew module is a joint venture between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and with this test, a significant milestone toward realizing the nation's ambitious Gaganyaan project is achieved.”

ISRO is planning to conduct two uncrewed demonstration mission before Indian astronauts jump onboard Gaganyaan to ride into space. The uncrewed tests are likely to happen in 2023.

Edited by Ragul Senthil

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