India recovers capsule

India-CARE-fiAfter more than a decade in development and bringing an auspicious year for space to a conclusion, India successfully launched the GSLV Mk III launch vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Andhra Pradesh, and recovered a capsule designed as a prototype for one which is intended to carry India’s first astronauts into orbit sometime in the early 2020s.

Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the capsule is named CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment) and was an identical structural precursor to India’s human space vehicle. On this first technology demonstration flight, it flew a ballistic, sub-orbital, trajectory to a maximum height of 126 km (78 miles) and a speed of 19,000 km/hr (11,800 mph) returning through the atmosphere to experience temperatures of up to 1,100 º C (2,000º F).

The capsule weighs 3,700 kg (8,200 lb) and has a height of 2.7 m (9 ft) and a base diameter of 3 m (10 ft). It successfully deployed its parachute recovery systems and splashed down approximately 625 km (390 miles) from Point Blair in the Andaman Islands. An automatic radio beacon transmitted its location and the capsule was recovered by elements of India’s Coast Guard.

Designed specifically to launch large satellites into geosynchronous orbit and to lift into low Earth orbit a spacecraft carrying people, the GSLV Mk III consists of a core liquid propellant first stage supplemented with two solid-propellant strap-on boosters. The L-110 core stage is fuelled with UH 25 (mixture of 75% UDMH and 25% hydrazine) and N2O4and delivers a thrust of 1,400 kN (315,000 lb) from its two Vikas engines. The S-200 boosters each deliver a maximum vacuum thrust of 5,150 kN (1.16 million lb). The rocket lifts off on the thrust of the two boosters and the core ignites at the end of booster firing as the thrust tails off.

The second stage of the rocket supports a C-25 cryogenic propulsion system delivering a thrust of 200 kN (45,000 lb) for 9 min 40 sec. On the launch Thursday, this stage was inert. The C-25 rocket motor is expected to be ready for test firing sometime in 2015 and the full-up test of this two-stage launch vehicle is expected to occur by early 2017.

While the Indian government has not yet given formal approval to a human space flight programme, it has provided the money, and the tacit support, to a continuing series of technology demonstration tests, some involving flights such as this first launch of the GSLV Mk III. In a sequential series of development activities, this initial test of the core and boosters is a major step forward, one which will attract confidence for the further development of this important rocket.

The February issue of Spaceflight has gone to press for release in early January but the issue out in early February will carry a more complete article about this rocket together with cutaway drawings and further and more detailed information.

David Baker
Editor Spaceflight

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