India’s Gaganyaan mission, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) has successfully executed a series of drogue parachute deployment tests in collaboration with the Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), a research laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). These critical tests took place at the Rail Track Rocket Sled (RTRS) facility of the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory in Chandigarh from August 8 to 10.
The Gaganyaan mission is poised to demonstrate India’s capability for human spaceflight. Ensuring the safe transport of astronauts to and from space is a pivotal component of this mission. The deployment of drogue parachutes assumes a crucial role in achieving this objective. These parachutes are instrumental in stabilizing the crew module and reducing its velocity to a safe level during re-entry.
Drogue parachutes for the Gaganyaan mission are packed within pyro-based devices called mortars, designed to deploy the parachutes into the air upon command. These conical ribbon-type parachutes, boasting a diameter of 5.8 meters, employ a single-stage reefing mechanism that ingeniously minimizes canopy area, mitigating opening shock and ensuring a controlled descent.
The series of tests at the RTRS facility encompassed three comprehensive assessments aimed at evaluating the performance and reliability of the drogue parachutes. These simulations encompassed a spectrum of real-world scenarios.
The first test marked a groundbreaking achievement by introducing reefing in a mortar-deployed parachute, simulating the maximum reefed load. The second test replicated the maximum disreefed load, while the third test showcased the deployment of the drogue parachute under conditions mirroring the maximum angle of attack encountered by the crew module during the mission.
The triumph of these RTRS tests signifies the readiness of the drogue parachutes for integration into the forthcoming Test Vehicle-D1 mission. These tests represent a crucial qualification milestone, signifying the notable progress made in the development of the parachute system crucial to the Gaganyaan mission.
In earlier stages, the RTRS tests also validated the efficacy of the pilot and apex cover separation parachutes. These parachutes are central to the Gaganyaan mission’s success. While the pilot parachutes facilitate independent extraction and deployment of the main parachutes, the ACS (Apex Cover Separation) parachutes play a pivotal role in separating the apex cover mounted on the crew module.
The complex parachute sequence in the Gaganyaan crew module’s deceleration system involves ten parachutes. The sequence initiates with the deployment of two apex cover separation parachutes, succeeded by stabilization through two drogue parachutes. Subsequently, the extraction phase commences, where three pilot chutes individually extract three main parachutes. This critical step is instrumental in slowing down the crew module’s speed to ensure a secure landing.
Gaganyaan aims to elevate India’s prominence in the realm of human spaceflight. The mission’s objective involves launching a three-member crew into a 400 km orbit for a three-day mission, culminating with a safe landing in the Indian sea waters. With this landmark achievement on the horizon, India’s focus will subsequently shift towards developing the capability for sustained human presence in space.