If everything goes according to plan, in 40 months, three Indians will be launched into space by an Indian rocket. This is the aim of India’s ambitious manned spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, the contours of which were outlined by Dr. K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday.
“We will do it before the 75th Independence Day. I will say that we will target six months before that. Sceptics have been doubtful but we are confident. Most of the technologies are already developed,” Dr. Sivan told a press conference.
He stated that ISRO began work on the manned mission in 2004 and some of these technologies have been demonstrated successfully through various tests — Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment and Pad Abort Test.
In the Independence Day address from the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that an Indian will go to space by 2022 “with the tricolour in his hand.”
ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle, which has the necessary payload capability to launch Gaganyaan, Dr. Sivan said. Two unmanned missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans on the first manned flight within 30 months and manned mission in 40 months.
“The mission will aim to send a three-person crew to space for a period of 5-7 days. The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400km,” Dr. Sivan said.
The total programme is expected to cost less than ₹10,000 crore and will result in significant spinoffs in multiple dimensions, including technology spinoffs in the social sector.
“This is very cost-effective when you look at it from a larger perspective, more so when you compare it with similar missions sent by other countries. The benefits which we are going to obtain from them are invaluable,” Dr. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Space, said.A crew module, along with the service module, together called the orbital module weighing seven tonnes, will be mounted atop the GSLV launch vehicle.
“The crew will reach low earth orbit in 16 minutes and stay in orbit for 5-7 days. During orbit, the astronauts will carry out micro gravity experiments,” Dr. Sivan said.
In the return phase, at 120 km above earth, the crew module will separate from the service module and head towards earth in a controlled manner. “It will take 36 minutes to reach the earth,” he stated.
The crew module will splash down on the Arabian Sea closer to Ahmedabad. However, Dr. Sivan said ISRO is drawing up plans to land the module on the Bay of Bengal or even on land in case of any contingency to “ensure safety of the crew.”
The mission crew can be either Air Force pilots or even civilians. However, Dr. Sivan said that for the first flight the preference is for pilots. The selection of the crew is expected to begin shortly as it will take 2-3 years to complete the training. “You can expect an advertisement soon,” Dr. Sivan stated.Given the complexity of the programme, Dr. Sivan said, it will truly be a national endeavour with the participation of ISRO, academia, industry as well as other government and private agencies as stake-holders.
The project will also result in employment for 15,000 people most of it in the private sector.
To accelerate the programme, ISRO is considering seeking collaborations with space agencies from friendly countries with advanced space programmes.
The programme once launched, will make India the fourth nation in the world to have a manned space mission. So far only the U.S., Russia and China have launched human space flight missions.