ISRO tests a ‘parachute’ for astronauts

To ensure the safety of Indian astronauts who go into space in an indigenous rocket, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) tested a ‘parachute’ on Thursday. Known as the crew escape module, it is critical for astronauts in case a rocket explodes on the launch pad.

“The system is an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort. The first test (Pad Abort Test) demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” the ISRO said in a statement.

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The five-hour countdown was smooth, the space agency said. It shared that the crew escape system along with the simulated crew module with a mass of 12.6 tonne, lifted off at 7 this morning at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

The test was over in 259 seconds, during which the crew escape system along with crew module soared skyward, reached an altitude of nearly 2.7 km, swerved over the Bay of Bengal and floated back to Earth under its parachutes about 2.9 km from Sriharikota.

Three recovery boats are being exercised to retrieve the module as part of the recovery protocol. Nearly 300 sensors recorded its performance parameters during the test flight.

The human space flight programme, which the ISRO estimates to cost upwards of $2.5 billion will take about seven to 10 years after it gets clearance.

As part of the first trial flight of the geo-synchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) Mark III in 2014, India flew a dummy crew module that can carry two to three astronauts into space. The only countries that have expertise in space operations are Russia, USA and China.

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