Exclusive: ‘Cargo-carrier’ to human-carrier; ISRO performing tests to fly astronauts on its GSLV Rocket

Exclusive: ‘Cargo-carrier’ to human-carrier; ISRO performing tests to fly astronauts on its GSLV Rocket

The Indian Space research Organization(ISRO), on Thursday, announced the successful test-fire of its Vikas(Vikram A Sarabhai) Engine or the Core stage L110 Engine of its heaviest operational rocket – the GSLV Mk 3. While this engine and the rocket comprising it have flown several times in the past, the test is part of a series of new evaluations. They are meant to ensure the human-rating of the rocket. Simply put, ISRO is working on converting its Cargo-carrying Rocket into a reliable human-carrier, meant for astronauts. Chairman, ISRO, Dr. K. Sivan, revealed this and much more in an Exclusive Conversation with Zee Media. 

The fundamental difference in carrying satellites and humans to space is that satellite missions are about carrying more payload(heavy satellite or multiple small satellites) to orbit. Whereas, Human spaceflight is about ensuring fail-safe, reliable flight of astronauts, even if the rocket is not carrying its maximum payload. Once launched by a rocket, a satellite carries out its functions in space, based on commands from its control facility, back on Earth. 

In case of India’s Human Spaceflight programme, the capsule/spacecraft carrying humans must be launched into space(via a rocket), the astronauts must perform their activities/experiments in space for a defined time. Later, the spacecraft propels and re-aligns itself to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere (overcoming extreme high temperature and friction). Then, it is recovered after a splash down in the sea. 

Human-rating is the process of certifying a rocket’s capability to safely carry such a capsule to space. As far as ISRO is concerned, it involves strengthening the overall launch system, modifying its design and components for high-reliability. Owing to these modifications, additional testing is required for each of its hardware. 

The GSLV Mk3 is a three-stage rocket – powered by two S200 Solid fuel boosters, two liquid fuel Vikas engines(L110 core stage) and the CE-20 Cryogenic Engine(that burns a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen). It must also be noted that the same Vikas Engine also powers India’s PSLV rocket, that has a stellar success record of over 96% in 53 flights. Even the two failures that so occurred in the PSLV launches, were unrelated to its engines and core rocketry.

The human-rated GSLV would be housing the crew module under the rocket’s nose cone. The rocket is capable of carrying a 4-ton payload to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (36,000kms from earth’s surface) and 8-ton payload to Low Earth Orbit(LEO is 400-600km) respectively.  

News Source: DNA

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