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Indian Space Agency Prototypes Its First Crew Capsule

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the up-up-and-away dept.

Space 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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Something new? (1, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46364523)

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? (4, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46364551)

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? (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46364595)

Would have been nice if a post mentioning an Unveiling would at least link to the picture.

http://www.newscientist.com/da... [newscientist.com]

What they got is bones.

Re:Something new? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46364677)

Would have been nice if a post mentioning an Unveiling would at least link to the picture.

http://www.newscientist.com/da... [newscientist.com]

What they got is bones.

Hey! I think I know that guy on the right! His name is Raj and back when he was a student he used to work at one of those restaurants down on 6th street with all the christmas lights and shit hanging from the ceiling. He always had a smile when he brought out those little crispy apetizers with the tray with three different sauces. They had the best lamb vindaloo. At least I think it was lamb. He's come a long way...

Re:Something new? (0)

spasm (79260) | about 6 months ago | (#46365377)

Some NASA astronaut candidates have worked as waitressess too, jackass.. http://women.nasa.gov/maria-no... [nasa.gov]

Re:Something new? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365055)

What they got is bones.

No - that's it. They need maximum ventilation. Two Indianauts filled up with tikka masala in a tiny volume?

"Hyderabad - we have a problem!"

Re:Something new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46366303)

The whole EW article is just a reprint of the NS article.

Original [newscientist.com]

Re:Something new? (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 6 months ago | (#46364597)

SoyUseless. :-)

Re:Something new? (5, Informative)

arvin (916235) | about 6 months ago | (#46365825)

It looks like it will reenter nose-first. ISRO did a capsule re-entry and recovery test a few years ago with that configuration, the SRE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

Apollo-like base-first reentry causes less heating, but it's aerodynamically stable only if the capsule has a short, wide cone and low center of gravity; Nose-first reentry is more forgiving and stable with narrow, tall cones. To have sufficient space in an Apollo-like capsule, the base has to be wide, which requires a launch vehicle that can accomodate that width; ISRO's rockets are too narrow.

Source: I was an intern at ISRO during SRE preparations and I spoke with aerodynamics people on that project.

Re:Something new? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#46366343)

If you want to slow down you want the blunt end to push through the air. On the other hand if the thing tumbles you wouldn't want it to burn up just because it's pointing the wrong way so a bit of a heat shield on the nose makes sense.

Re:Something new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46368171)

Thinking out-side-the-box, engineers place a cow in the nose cone section. The meat is used to protect the crew from excessive heat. Timing is critical because the cow cooks and meat gets tender lot of thought is placed on the thickness of the heat shield, over-cooked cow meat sucks! Once landed, the crew may need to wait sometimes for days to be found. The cow provides several yummy meals.

Re:Something new? (4, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#46364673)

Indian Space Research Organisation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]
India seems to be doing space exploration the right way. Less http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org] 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.

Re:Something new? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 6 months ago | (#46365153)

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 !!

Re:Something new? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#46365211)

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 of the UK's Skynet (satellite) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org] seems to be warning from history of been too early with no national support (epic buy in of unique tech from the US).

Re:Something new? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 months ago | (#46366451)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46364837)

They're just planning ahead for when outsourcing moves beyond this planet.

Re:Something new? (5, Informative)

Michalson (638911) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Priorities (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46364555)

Where are India's priorities? Most of their people don't having running water, electricity and shit in the open. A space agency is a luxury for rich nations, not for poor, backward countries like this.

Re:Priorities (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46364591)

Where are India's priorities? Most of their people don't having running water, electricity and shit in the open. A space agency is a luxury for rich nations, not for poor, backward countries like this.

And these 'rich' countries would be? The US? Russia? China? Get over it. India is probably spending less than .001% of it's GDP on space flight. India's big problem bis corruption. A high tech endevour like space flight is an excellent vehicle for this. Yes, you can bribe your way into making a heat shield, but when it melts in the first 10 minutes of re entry, people are going to notice it and get pissed off. You don't have to wait 30 years for the next earthquake to discover that your contractor can't build anything.

Re:Priorities (3, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 6 months ago | (#46364717)

Good argument. In point of fact, India has their population consuming less energy per capita than China does, but with the same growth in population and almost the same GDP per capita.

Now if they could just find a way to make Space Travel inexpensive, maybe we could colonize Mars, which we now know has water on it's moons and on the planet.

Re:Priorities; on a side note. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46366747)

interesting that you picked up on those stats.
India vs. China is exactly the reason why I say that CO2 emissions need to be based on Co2 / GDP ($), instead of CO2/Capita.
Basically, India/china proved that doing emissions based on ppl is the worst solution.

Windbourne.

Re:Priorities (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 6 months ago | (#46365033)

Best argument I've heard is that back in the 17th Century India was one of the richest civilisations in the world. Then it was colonised by the Muslims and then the British.

Muslim colonisation was absolutely genocidal - the name Hindu Kush means "slaughterer of the Hindus" and refers to the high death rate of Hindu slaves moved over them.

The British one was no picnic either - famines were common under British rule and stopped when it ended. India's share of world income collapsed from 22.6% in 1700, almost equal to Europe's share of 23.3% at that time, to as low as 3.8% in 1952. [wikipedia.org]

So why does India need a space program? Defence basically. Most of the technologies to launch things into space are useful to launch warheads on a short suborbital flight to fry and enemy city.

And if India wants to avoid a rerun of the last two hundred years it needs to be prepared to fry enemy cities. The world is not a very nice place and only well armed and ruthless civilisations survive.

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365285)

Make that '7th century', not '17th'. India was under Moghul rule in the 17th century.

Re:Priorities (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365231)

India's big problem bis corruption. A high tech endevour like space flight is an excellent vehicle for this.

This like saying Hiltler's big problem is killing jews, and a big concentration camp is an excellent way for him to do something different.

What do you use for brains outside of slashdot?
You've conceded that Indians have an abysmal track record with major projects.
Not to mention essentially 100% of "Indian achievements" fail to be "Indian" when scrutinized by anybody with some knowledge of the subject.

Witness the "Indian" fighter jet Tejas [wikipedia.org] .
I suggest you redact every mention of western contractors from the wikipedia article and see how much of an aircraft you have left over.

Big hoopla about "Indian" cryogenic rocket engine [slashdot.org] (yet to be dissected regarding how "indian" it actually is).
But it simply means Indians have been flying Russian rocket technology at least up to a few months ago.

Let's just hope the Indian Navy Chief [wikipedia.org] isn't moving on to the ISRO after his resignation in disgrace.

Re:Priorities (2)

spasm (79260) | about 6 months ago | (#46365389)

Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75. (Hacker, J. S. (2006). The great risk shift: The new insecurity and the decline of the American dream. New York: Oxford University Press (USA).)

slow, but steady (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46364699)

India has been slowly, but surely, plodding away with its space program since the 1970s. India launched its first successful commercial grade rocket, the PSLV, around 1993. The PSLV is still India's primary rocket. India has been trying to develop a working cryogenic stage since then. They had a successful launch ~2 months ago, so I have been expecting India to resume work on its manned space program. ISRO's budget has grown to around ~$900 million USD.

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365023)

There is always the military aspect, and having to ward off a certain geographic neighbor who wouldn't mind seeing them turned into nuclear slag should the opportunity present itself.

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46366627)

A space agency is a luxury for rich nations, not for poor, backward countries like this.

Perhaps because India's space agency is also a profitable enterprise [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46366737)

Where are India's priorities? Most of their people don't having running water, electricity and shit in the open. A space agency is a luxury for rich nations, not for poor, backward countries like this.

Oddly, America had similar conditions through a lot of America in the 50's when we started this, and in fact, we STILL have parts that are that way. Go to northern mississippi. You will find towns in which the blacks are not only segregated, but their homes are worse than what the average Indian has. Interestingly, you will also find that they have 2 grocery stores next to each other, 2 hardware stores next to each other, etc.
The question is, how do you dig yourself out of the economic hole? You develop new technology.

Windbourne (moderating).

Re:Priorities (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 6 months ago | (#46366929)

But India is also a rapidly industrializing nation. Industrialization means infrastructure and jobs, which is what is building the water and sewer systems they need. Space programs are a natural result of the disposable income that goes with industrial development.

They have plenty of fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46367483)

Majority of their population lives in villages and uses dung for fuel. They have no shortage of fuel for this project.

Re:Priorities (1)

mmell (832646) | about 6 months ago | (#46368447)

Y'know, the US and the USSR both had similar problems back in the fifties and sixties - not as severe, but definitely the same - but Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin both made it into orbit. Apollo circled the moon and later landed there. We still have people living in poverty and so does the current Russia - but I don't think too many citizens of either nation regret exploring space.

Too easy. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46364611)

Really?

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

Where are you, harvesters of the low hanging fruit?

Re:Too easy. (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 6 months ago | (#46364883)

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...

Awesome... so long as they don't need Tech Support (-1, Troll)

gavron (1300111) | about 6 months ago | (#46364613)

"Hello, thank you for calling ISRO tek-nee-kull support, this is Jim, how may I help you?"

"Jim, this is the capsule! We are stuck here! Help!"

"Yes, this is Jim from tek-nee-kull support. I am happy to help you today. I will need to ask you some questions first. Is it okay if I ask you questions?"

"We're running out of oxygen! The lift-off failed! We can't open the door!"

"Yes, I understand you are running out of oxygen. Is it okay if I ask you questions?"

"Yes, ask, ask! We're dying here!!!"

"Yes, thank you for allowing me to ask you questions. I will be glad to provide you service today. First I need to ask, what is your name?" ...

Re:Awesome... so long as they don't need Tech Supp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365317)

Jackass,

You may not know it, but a lot more happens in India than just cheap tech support. The tech support sucks because the said american companies are stupid enough to hire the cheap resources there. Ex. Dell, AOL etc.

But remember,
1. Your Xrays & CAT scans are read and the findings are sent back from india (http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/07/18/growing-number-of-hospitals-outsourcing-radiology-services/)

2. Drug R&D is outsourced to India by big pharma (http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnlamattina/2012/10/11/its-time-to-stop-outsourcing-pharma-rd-to-india/)

3. Investment banking back office (http://news.efinancialcareers.com/sg-en/114881/an-in-depth-look-at-why-credit-suisse-and-its-rivals-are-relocating-back-office-roles-out-of-singapore/)

Oh and I forgot - H1B visas are being increased to 300,000. So be ready to see more jobs at 60K.

Re:Awesome... so long as they don't need Tech Supp (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 6 months ago | (#46368141)

Drug R&D is also massively outsourced to China. One of my clients was Bristol Meyers Squibb, almost all the "engineering" and "research" calls I got came in from China.

That's Cool... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 6 months ago | (#46364693)

But why is the Kerbal Space Program theme playing in their mission control?

Who left the door open ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46364795)

"the prototype capsule cannot be hermetically sealed"
And yet my fridge can.
I would have thought making sure the air doesn't escape would be one of the first things you would want to test.

Not much point testing aerodynamics and controls if it later fails as a pressure vessel. Lets hope the control system works fine in an airless environment.

Re:Who left the door open ? (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 6 months ago | (#46364937)

"the prototype capsule cannot be hermetically sealed" And yet my fridge can.

In the vacuum of space? Is it the same model that was used in the last Indiana Jones movie?

Re: Who left the door open ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46365403)

Try launching your fridge into outer space.

Here is a photo of the crew preparing to board.... (0)

andrewa (18630) | about 6 months ago | (#46365695)

Re:Here is a photo of the crew preparing to board. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46368771)

Er, except that the picture is from Pakistan! Typical western know-it-all mentality :)

Re:Here is a photo of the crew preparing to board. (1)

andrewa (18630) | about 6 months ago | (#46369261)

You're right, I should have done my research. How can I expect my post to be taken seriously with such glaring inaccuracies?

There will be no provision for toliets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46366987)

After all, the Indian government does not seem to care enough about the fact that hundreds of millions of Indian have to make do without toilets.

Space vs Poverty.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46368019)

75 million is a piddling sum considering the advantages scientific investment brings. Its global knowledge that heavy advances in science medicine engineering spurs an investment and research mindset in the industry driving that.
Not to mention the huge humanitarian offsets - most western articles criticize the Indian Space Program - not just the Mars Program. I don't think I've ever read any British Tabloid that doesn't end up adding words similar to these "can a country that doesn't provide electricity to 40% of its population..".

Fact of the matter is - Indian meteorological satellites monitoring cyclone Helen saved tens of thousands of lives - its impact cannot be over stated. Because India has its own sophisticated launchers and satellites - it saved billions a year by launching from home soil rather than expensive Russian or ariane launches . It still does use those for heavier 4 ton + class satellites - but with India achieving cryogenic satellites and starting its development testing of the heavy launcher GSLV Mark 3 - it will plug that hole too, by 2015!

Investment into Space is saving it money! And also bringing in enormous foreign exchange by launching satellites fr other nations! when GSLV MK 3 becomes operational - that figure would go through the roof by India challenging Ariane and RosKosmos for the heavy satellite launches 30-40% cheaper!!
the Indian IRS Remote Sensing satellite fleet have proven their worth many times over by helping the same farmers who are also suffering electricity shortages!

Finally, Indian Military Reconnaissance satellites - not publicly acknowledged by The Ministry of Defence- are considered by some the most powerful line of defence for a country plagued by Islamist banana republics on both sides of its borders!

Pack lots of pachouli . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | about 6 months ago | (#46368215)

Can't use incense to mask odors up there, you know.

And inspite of it all (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 6 months ago | (#46369391)

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 ?
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