Friday, July 6, 2018

India Conducts Pad Abort Test for Its Crewed Space Flight Program

Left: the Crew Escape System and the crew module soar into the sky. Right: the crew module with parachutes deployed descends to the sea. Photo Credit: ISRO.

On Thursday, July 5, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully carried out an emergency Pad Abort Test (PAT), marking the first step to qualify India’s indigenous Crew Escape System technology for launching astronauts into space.

“ISRO carried out a major technology demonstration today (July 05, 2018), the first in a series of tests to qualify a Crew Escape System, which is a critical technology relevant for human spaceflight,” ISRO wrote in a press release.

The Crew Escape System is an emergency accident avoidance measure designed to quickly get astronauts and their spacecraft away from the launch vehicle if a malfunction occurs during the initial stage of the launch. The PAT that was carried out Thursday is the first in a series of planned tests to qualify this system for India’s human space flight program.

ISRO started the test at 7:00 a.m. local time (9:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday) at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre after a five-hour countdown. As part of the test, the Crew Escape System along with the simulated crew module weighing around 12.6 metric tons, took to the skies powered by seven specifically designed quick acting solid rocket motors and reached an altitude of nearly 1.68 miles (2.7 kilometers).

Afterward, the module floated back to Earth under its parachutes some 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) away from the launch pad. The whole test lasted 259 seconds.

The success of Thursday’s test was confirmed by ISRO in a press release, however the agency is not offering many details regarding this trial run.

“The first test (Pad Abort Test) demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO informed.

The agency noted that three recovery boats were employed to retrieve the crew module. The capsule contained crucial data for further development of the Crew Escape System. ISRO revealed that nearly 300 sensors recorded various mission performance parameters during the flight.

PAT is not the first test conducted by India towards realizing its ambitious plans to send humans into orbit. A prior critical experiment was carried out on December 18, 2014, when the CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment) capsule successfully demonstrated that it could survive atmospheric re-entry.

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