This aborted mission is a success


The News

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) inched a small step closer to its ambition of sending manned mission to space by conducting the first ‘pad abort’ test.


Pad Abortion Test

  • A Pad Abort Test is a trial run for a spacecraft’s launch abort system (sometimes called a launch escape system).
  • The test is designed to validate the launch escape system.
  • Launch escape system would carry the spacecraft and its crew to safety in the event of a major malfunction during the early stages of a future manned launch.
  • PAT is a major technology demonstrator and is the first in a series of tests to qualify a larger Crew Escape System of the future.
  • The test demonstrates a launch pad abort, where a problem before or at the moment of liftoff requires that the crew be ejected to safety from their rocket.
  • A launch escape system can also protect the crew against a failure during the early stages of ascent.
  • It is similar to an ejection seat for a fighter pilot, but instead of ejecting the pilot out of the spacecraft, the entire spacecraft is ejected away from the launch vehicle.
  • A tower structure is mounted at the top of the vehicle, with powerful motors that fire to pull the spacecraft away from the rocket.
  • Once the rocket has climbed out of the lower atmosphere, less force is needed to initiate the abort.
  • The escape system is typically jettisoned, with the spacecraft then relying on its own engines to pull it clear should the need arise.



Pad abort versus Ascent abort

  • There are two types of tests typically used to validate a launch escape system.
  1. Pad abort system
  2. Ascent abort
  • Under ascent abort the capsule is carried to altitude atop a rocket and fires its abort system during its climb.


Need for an abort system

  • The crew escape system is being developed as part of the proposed human spaceflight programme.
  • The Crew Escape System is an emergency accident avoidance measure designed to quickly get astronauts and their spacecraft away from the launch vehicle if a malfunction occurs during the initial stage of the launch.
  • The test proves that ISRO can bail out future astronauts with their capsule in case of an early danger to them at the launch pad.
  • The U.S., Russia and China which have sent human missions have developed their own systems.
  • ISRO has been readying technologies like pad abort — that are necessary for a future manned mission — as part of its R&D activities.
  • PAT is not the first test conducted by India towards realizing its ambitious plans to send humans into orbit.
  • A prior critical experiment was carried out on December 18, 2014, when the CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment) capsule successfully demonstrated that it could survive atmospheric re-entry.




  • A tower structure is mounted at the top of the vehicle, with powerful motors that fire to pull the spacecraft away from the rocket.
  • Under the power of its abort motors the capsule rise into the sky to an altitude of around 2.5 kilometers and head out to sea.
  • The powered phase of flight will last approximately twenty seconds.
  • After this the capsule descends back to Earth.
  • Once the spacecraft lands offshore they use parachutes to slow its descent.
  • The capsule flying the abort test is fitted with an altimeter and satellite navigation receivers to track its position.
  • It was to use India’s NavIC, or IRNSS, navigation system as well as the US Global Positioning System (GPS), augmented by GAGAN transmitters on Indian geostationary satellites.


Other Launch Escape Systems

  • Launch escape system saved the lives of cosmonauts on board Soyuz in 1983.
  • This is the only time an escape mechanism has so far been called upon during an actual manned mission.
  • Like Soyuz US Mercury, Apollo and Orion spacecraft and China’s Shenzhou, also have lauch escape system capabilities.
  • The Starliner and Dragon spacecraft currently under development by Boeing and SpaceX for the US Commercial Crew program also use “pusher” abort.


 Video of the Test


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