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Indian Space Agency Prototypes Its First Crew Capsule 48

First time accepted submitter sixsigma1978 writes "India is about to take one small step towards human space flight. Last week the country's space agency unveiled a prototype of its first crew capsule, a 4-meter-high module designed to carry two people into low Earth orbit. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning a test flight for later this year – even though it still awaits government approval and funding for a human space-flight program. The unpiloted capsule will fly on the maiden launch of a new type of rocket that would otherwise have carried a dummy payload."
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Indian Space Agency Prototypes Its First Crew Capsule

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  • Something new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )

    At least it doesn't look like a modified Soyuz like the Chinese effort. I'm not sure India has the drive or need to put humans in space, but they appear to be trying something different.

    • Re:Something new? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @09:37PM (#46364551) Homepage

      Stranger than I first thought. TFA talks about a 'carbon nose cap' to shield the heat of reentry. That sort of implies (subject to the translation failures of generalist journalists and PR folks) that it's going nose down through the atmosphere. However, it looks like the capsule has a posterior heat shield (like other manned capsules) albeit one that looks pretty thin in the picture.

      Sigh. Be nice if they actually had real pictures of these things.

    • Re:Something new? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @09:56PM (#46364673) Journal
      Indian Space Research Organisation []
      India seems to be doing space exploration the right way. Less [] and the building on other countries efforts.
      India seems to have taken its time and allowed science to catch up with its own needs rather than buying into the future and then running out of cash, political support or skill sets.
      Long term expect many interesting new ideas with proven tech.
      • Long term expect many interesting new ideas with proven tech

        The term "Proven Tech" implies that the technology has been proven by others first, or in other words, "borrowed technology", just like China is doing.

        But anyway, all power to the Indian space missions !!

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          More that India understands the tech at its own pace, can build it in its own labs using its own staff and can then build new tech to spec for ongoing use.
          India seems to have focused on theory, academics, then super computing, new materials, testing, military and science needs later.
          vs one off 'race' bespoke efforts (WW2 Germany, US, Soviet Union), one off 'early' bespoke buy in/support efforts (Australia, UK for sat support) i.e. nation building politically selected sheltered tech workshops.
          The costing
          • seems to be warning from history of been too early

            BEING too early?

            I hope, at least. If not, then I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what you were trying to say....

    • Re:Something new? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Michalson ( 638911 ) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @11:52PM (#46365161)
      To be fair, while the Chinese capsule is probably a 'copy' given the engrained culture of copying things and passing them off as original (jets, tanks, bullet trains, cartoons, statues, retail stores, etc and etc), the Soyuz shape is actually a very mathmatically 'perfect' spacecraft given a certain set of requirements. In fact the shape is so dependent on math that America almost built a nearly identical craft for the Apollo program without either country knowing what the other was doing.

      When designing spacecraft weight is everything - to move something in space you need a proportional amount of fuel, and then you need even more fuel to move that fuel. Tsiolkovsky's equation shows how adding even a small amount of weight to the final stage of a rocket greatly increases the weight of the lower stages. Soviet engineers zero'ed in on one specific element and that was in order to return something to Earth you needed a heatshield, a parachute and other equipment. As a rule of thumb they figured out that for every pound of spacecraft you wanted to bring back to Earth you would add about 2 more pounds to the spacecraft's weight.

      Given how much weight was dependent on the size of the return capsule they decided to design it first and make it as small as possible, then build the rest of the ship around whatever they had come up with. The lightest possible return capsule would be a sphere: maximum volume (so you can fit 3 guys) with the minimum mass. But a sphere wouldn't work since it wouldn't remain steady and the G forces would kill everyone. Applying some math from the field of aerodynamics created the 'headlight' shape, providing lift while adding the minimum possible mass. The headlight return capsule is the part that is going to be identical no matter who designs it - the Soviet Union, the American contracters or the Chinese. As long as the design principle of a minimum mass return capsule is used it will look more or less the same from the outside.

      The rest of the ship has more room for originality but is still going to be affected by math and common sense. A service module where the engine and fuel go will exist and it will obviously fit at the bottom/base of the spacecraft. To aid in launch aerodynamics it makes sense for this service module to be a cylinder with a rocket on the bottom and sized to fit with the spacecraft's largest surface at the top. Apollo's service module followed the same logic. Finally you need a crew cabin (the orbital module), since the whole point of a longer duration spacecraft is that your guys can get out of their seat. Since the orbital module isn't needed for deorbiting it makes sense for the reentry module to be connected to the service module, and so the orbital module by default gets put on top of the whole stack. Since it has a smaller attachment point anyway (the small end of the reentry module whose shape is already fixed) it might make sense to make the orbital module roughly spherical, since this again maximizes volume : mass and both the Soviet and Chinese versions did that.

      General Electric, one of the bidders for the Apollo program, performed a study that came up with a nearly identical craft despite the Soyuz blueprints that existed at the time being a closely guarded Soviet secret. The main difference was their version of the orbital module. Rather then focusing on the volume : mass ratio (sphere) they focused on a shape that would work best for the fairings (Soyuz requires a large fairing to protect it during launch, much like most satellites do). This resulted in a cone shaped orbital module, essentially a lighter more minimal version of the Apollo command module. Of course the GE design was never used because NASA had decided what Apollo would look like long before a million (1960s) taxpayer dollars where spent on the design studies. The NASA design focused on a different key requirement - the module should have the same diameter as the Saturn C-2's upper stage. Because of that requirement the size of the heatshield became a fixed property. With a heatshield that big there was no reason to not bring back the whole spacecraft, minus the service module, and so you got the Apollo design that went to the Moon.
  • Really?

    ...otherwise would've carried a dummy payload?

    Where are you, harvesters of the low hanging fruit?

    • Really?

      ...otherwise would've carried a dummy payload?

      Where are you, harvesters of the low hanging fruit?

      I heard that it will be carrying the Kardashians as a way to raise awareness about the program. Oh, wait...

  • But why is the Kerbal Space Program theme playing in their mission control?
  • Can't use incense to mask odors up there, you know.
  • Yeah the manned space thing seems a little too expensive and decades away (at best) . But these fellas (ISRO) have recently and quite successfully launched a geo stationary satellite . I wonder how many countries have that capability . 5 ?

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp