ISRO’s CARE spacecraft carries out historic first mission with GSLV Mk III launch
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO ) has successfully launched the LVM3 X Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment or “CARE” at 09:30 a.m. Indian Standard Time (IST) – the test article flew to orbit atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV Mk III) booster – which marked its first flight with today’s mission. The flight launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre’s Second Launch Pad – and could serve to make India part of a very elite club – as part of the small group of nations that have sent crews to orbit.
CARE and the GSLV Mk III have been designed specifically for use on the ISRO’s planned Orbital Vehicle – India’s crew-rated spacecraft. Today’s launch window remained open for three hours. Opening at 9 a.m. IST and closing at 12 p.m. IST.
CARE parted company with the GSLV Mk III at an altitude of approximately 78 miles (126 km) and at a speed of about 17,388 feet per second (5300 m/s) – where it entered into a coast phase. This was conducted so as guarantee that CARE has a zero degree angle of attack on reentry.
Upon completion of its time in space, CARE carried out a ballistic reentry – at an altitude of about 50 miles (80 kilometers). At this altitude, CARE’s propulsion systems were deactivated. Upon reentry, one of CARE’s most critical elements – its heat shield – was put through the ultimate test. Encountering temperatures reaching 1,600 degrees C – the capsule-shaped craft was slowed encountering forces of an estimated 13 g (thirteen times the force of Earth’s normal gravity).
Much like NASA’s first flight of the Orion, this mission was conducted to test out key systems that will be used on the Orbital Vehicle. Besides the hear shield, this test validated the spacecraft’s parachutes.
These parachutes were released once the apex cover had separated (Orion’s forward bay cover jettisoned in a similar fashion during the Dec. 5 flight) and deployed in what has been described as a “cluster configuration” which took place once the spacecraft had slowed to a speed of about 233 m / s. Unlike Orion, which uses 11 parachutes, today’s test flight utilized six, deploying in sets of two. Each of these parachutes measures some 102 feet (31 meters) in diameter and are the largest that India has produced to date.
CARE splashed down in the Bay of Bengal about 373 miles (600 kilometers) from Port Blair, located in the Andaman Islands. The Indian Coast Guard recovered it after tracking its locating beacon. The mission from launch to splashdown lasted just a little less than 20 minutes.
The GSLV Mk III is a three stage booster (the third stage was not used for this mission) that stands some 139 feet (42.4 meters) tall and has a diameter of about 13 feet (4 meters). The launch vehicle has a mass of 1,390,000 lbs (630,000 kg). The rocket is designed to have the capability of launching 22,000 lbs (10,000 kg) to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and 8,800-11,000 lbs (4,000-5,000 kg) to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GEO).
The rocket has been in development since the start of the century and was planned to carry out its first flight in 2009-2010. In 2010 a cryogenic upper stage on a GSLV Mk II encountered an anomaly, serving to slow the program.
The ISRO tested the L110 core stage at the agency’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) test facility located at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu on Mar. 5, 2010. The ISRO had planned for the core to burn for about three-and-a-half minutes – but was forced to end the test tw0-and-a-half minutes in after a leak in a control system was detected. Six months later, the ISRO successfully conducted the test for the full three-and-a-half minutes.
The two S-200 solid rocket boosters that are mounted to the core stage of the booster were tested on Jan. 24, 2010, carrying out a successful firing lasting two minutes and 10 seconds. On Sept. 4 of the following year, the S-200 conducted a successful static firing.
This inaugural test flight placed the ISRO on the road to sending crews to orbit. At present, only Russia and China have the capability of sending astronauts to orbit, with the United States working to regain the capability.
Video courtesy of DD News
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.