On August 8-10, 2023, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC)/ISRO, in collaboration with the Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE)/DRDO, conducted a series of successful drogue parachute deployment tests at the Rail Track Rocket Sled (RTRS) facility of the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory in Chandigarh. This test is a crucial step towards the successful implementation of India’s ambitious Gaganyaan mission.
Drogue parachutes are vital components of the Gaganyaan mission as they help stabilize the crew module and reduce its speed during re-entry into the atmosphere. The parachutes used for this test were specially designed conical ribbon-type parachutes with a diameter of 5.8 meters. The innovative single-stage reefing mechanism employed by these parachutes helps minimize canopy area and mitigate opening shock, thereby helping to ensure a smooth descent.
The drogue parachutes were deployed using mortars, pyro-based devices which eject the parachutes into the air upon command. The tests conducted at the RTRS facility helped to validate the efficacy of these mortars in delivering the drogue parachutes safely into the atmosphere.
The successful completion of these tests is a major milestone towards achieving India’s goal of sending astronauts to space and back in a safe and secure manner. The results of these tests have been encouraging and have further bolstered confidence in the technological capabilities of both VSSC/ISRO as well as ADRDE/DRDO.
Drogue parachute deployment test.
The Gaganyaan mission is India’s ambitious venture into space exploration, and a vital component of the mission is the parachute system. The parachute system is responsible for slowing down the Crew Module upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing a safe and secure landing. Recently, the RTRS facility conducted three comprehensive tests to evaluate the performance and reliability of the drogue parachutes deployed in the Gaganyaan mission.
The first test simulated the maximum reefed load, introducing reefing in a mortar-deployed parachute in India for the first time. Reefing involves adjusting the area of the canopy to reduce drag and enhance stability. The second test was conducted to evaluate the maximum disreefed load, while the third test emulated conditions mirroring the maximum angle of attack experienced by the Crew Module during its mission. These tests serve as a critical milestone for confirming the readiness of the drogue parachutes for integration into the upcoming Test Vehicle-D1 mission.
Earlier this year, RTRS also successfully tested Pilot and Apex cover separation parachutes, further augmenting progress in developing the parachute system for Gaganyaan. In total, ten parachutes form an intricate sequence for deceleration of the Crew Module. The sequence commences with two Apex cover separation parachutes followed by two drogue parachutes for stability. This is followed by three Pilot chutes that extract three main parachutes to reduce speed of the Crew Module to safe levels for landing.
These tests conducted at RTRS are key steps towards ensuring safe and successful implementation of Gaganyaan’s parachute system. A reliable and effective parachute system is essential to India’s foray into space exploration, as it allows for a controlled deceleration and soft landing of crew members aboard Gaganyaan upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Achieving success in these tests pave the way towards a safe future for human space exploration in India.