India's first manned mission now scheduled for a 2021 launch: ISRO Chief

Sivan invites private players to help with control & tracking tech, launchpad preparation and so on

India’s first manned mission to space has now been moved up to a December 2021, according to media reports from a press conference on the upcoming Bangalore Space Expo on Wednesday.

The ambitious new target for the Gaganyaan mission is now set for the end of December 2021 or January 2022. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo  Sivan explained that the agency wants a “margin in case there are glitches” to still be able to meet the original 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reports said.

Following are the finer details Sivan spoke about at the conference.

Developing and testing new technology

A series of critical tests are still pending before the first ISRO's Human Spaceflight Programme (HSP) puts 'gaganauts' in space. Technologies developed for the HSP — importantly, the crew module and life-support systems — will be tested in two unmanned missions.

According to The Times of India, ISRO is yet to develop some of the mission's critical components like the service module (part of the spacecraft that houses support systems for spacecraft operations) and the orbital module (part of the spacecraft used only in orbit and detaches from the spacecraft before re-entry). Sivan disclosed that the first of these missions will be in December 2020, and the second in June 2021.

Gaganauts and the selection process

Sivan has previously said that ISRO has the capability to carry a three-man team to space and keep them there for seven days, but clarified that the final numbers will only see the light of day closer to the mission date, the report added.

On the criteria for selection of astronauts, Sivan said that they would be chosen from among the ISRO and Indian Air Force, according to a report in The Indian Express.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Partnerships with the private sector

Sivan encouraged the private manufacturing and chemicals industry to partake in the process, and help the agency meet its infrastructural and systems requirements for the mission’s new and tighter deadline. He said, “We need huge facilities like mission control, tracking, launchpad preparations and so on, where industry must work continuously,” the report quoted him as saying.

Partnering with other space-faring nations

When asked about seeking help from countries that have successfully sent people to space, Sivan said that “it is always wiser” to do so — not just for training, but even otherwise

“It will help prevent learning through trial-and-error, and help us meet the tight schedule,” he was quoted as saying.

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