Gaganyaan crew module undergoing an abort test at SHAR India's space port

BANGALORE: Two crucial missions involving the special test vehicle developed as part of the preparations for India’s first human spaceflight mission (Gaganyaan) are most likely to happen in August and December, while the two data relay satellites, critical for tracking of the crew module in space and real-time communication, are scheduled only for next year.

As reported earlier by TOI, ISRO is working towards carrying out at least two test missions to establish crew abort and escape systems using the specially designed test vehicle (rocket) this year while the first uncrewed mission is expected in 2023.

ISRO chairman S Somanath told TOI: “We are looking to schedule the first abort mission on the new vehicle in August and the second one in December. The relay satellites have not been scheduled for this year.”

ISRO’s target is to demonstrate the first or abort conditions in August, wherein, it will intentionally cause an anomaly and allow the crew module to come out of it, do the tumbling manoeuvres, deploy parachutes, and land in a designated spot on the sea before being recovered.

Aside from this — which is only one type of abort test — there are different events such as maximum dynamic pressure condition, maximum acceleration condition, some transient condition etc, in which abort will become critical in flight. In all, ISRO has realised four such special test vehicles, two missions of which will happen this year.

Work on the 2,275-kg data relay satellites — Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS) — is ongoing. On April 4, ISRO received the satellite structure built by defence firm HAL, but a lot of work is still pending on the satellites. At any given point — during launch and even when Gaganyaan spacecraft is orbiting — at least one ground station needs to be able to see it. But with the current network (ISRO is working on securing at least 40 ground stations) that won’t be possible, bringing the IDRSS into play.

OceanSat, Commercial Sat And RLV

Further, the PSLV mission scheduled to launch earth observation satellite-6 (EOS-6) or Oceansat-3 will now only happen in August-September. “This is a more complex satellite and unlike the earlier ones in the family where the optics (sensors) were imported this will have indigenous ones. There are several challenges that are being addressed,” Somanath said.

The much-awaited first developmental flight of SSLV is scheduled for May, ISRO will conduct two more this year. “After one in May, we’re looking to schedule one in August and one in December. All three are developmental flights,” Somanath said.