After spending a week in the space when the three Indian astronauts return to the Earth in 2022, besides ISRO they must also thank a little-known laboratory tucked away in a corner of Agra

The crew module of the Gaganyaan will be brought back to the Earth by a pair of parachutes specially-made by Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment – one of the laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

ADRDE supplied 10 of such high strength parachutes to Indian Space Research Organisation for trials related to the human spaceflight programme. More will be supplied to the ISRO in the operational phase of the mission.

These recovery systems were used by the space agency while bringing the crew module back in the Bay of Bengal in December 2014 and later for the successful pad abort test in July 2018 – a month before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Gaganyaan programme on August 15, 2018.

“Each of the parachutes is capable of carrying four tonnes of weight. While one parachute is good enough for the crew module, two of these recovery systems are used in the human spaceflight project for redundancy,” one of the ADRDE officials told DH, requesting not to be quoted as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The Indian astronauts will stay at a low earth orbit at an elevation of 400 km. On their journey back home, they would first have to lower the Gaganyaan to a 120 km orbit, where the separation of crew module would take place. After separation, it would take about 36 minutes to descend.

The splash-down would be at a place close to the Gujarat coast in the Arabian Sea. The parachutes would reduce the speed of the crew module from 216 mt per second to 11 mt per second on touchdown.

The Agra laboratory has also come out with a tactical level Aerostat that can be deployed at the China border to keep an eye on the developments happening across the border. Currently a bigger and imported version of the Aerostats – basically balloon-mounted surveillance units – is deployed on the western border.

The tactical Aerostat has been demonstrated to the signal intelligence units of the Army’s Eastern Command.