Just months after achieving the milestone of a successful mission to Mars, India is ready to launch a human crew module and then retrieve it from the sea upon re-entry. The crew module will be launched as a payload on the GSLV Mark III rocket. “The rocket can carry up to four ton payload. This is the heaviest rocket India has ever launched. It is 630 tons at liftoff,” explained S. Somanath, project director, GSLV Mark III.
The blast off is scheduled between December 15 and 20 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, off the coast of the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The cupcake-shaped crew module which is 8 feet tall and 11 feet in diameter will not carry any astronauts on its first sub-orbital test flight, which will see the first two stages being fired. The third stage, which is cryogenic, is still under development and will not be tested. However, the launch vehicle will carry a dummy cryogenic stage.
“The three ton crew module will use four set of parachutes to safely land on the surface of the sea at 7 meters per second. It will land some 180 km from Indira Point of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. From the liftoff to the crew module splashing into the sea, it will take around 20 minutes,” said S. Unnikrishnan Nair, project director of the Crew Module Program. The flight of the GSLV-Mark III will be monitored by scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), for its flight parameters, its behavior as it moves through the atmosphere, and its stability. While the rocket costs ₹140 crore, ($22.6 million) the crew module costs ₹15 crores ($2.5 million) said M.Y.S. Prasad, director of the Satish Dhawan Space Center.
Incidentally NASA plans to launch its Orion deep space capsule next week for an initial uncrewed test flight, an important step toward human flight to deep space destinations such as Mars. NASA and manufacturer Lockheed Martin cleared the capsule for this first test after completing a “Flight Readiness Review.”