ISRO reveals plans for Gaganyaan's unmanned missions in 2020 aboard GSLV MkIII D2 rocket

We will follow all the parameters & if it doesn't work, we will fly a second unmanned mission: Sivan.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has set a target for the country's first ever manned mission to space by 2021, and another, unmanned mission ahead of 'Gaganyaan' for December 2020. The space agency's chairman K Sivan announced and elaborated on plans for the unmanned mission at a press conference after the launch of communication satellite GSAT 29 on the GSLV-MkIII rocket on 14 November.

In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi announced that India will attempt to send astronauts to space on a spacecraft called the ‘Gaganyaan’ by 2022. India would be only the fourth nation in the world to accomplish the feat if successful, he added.

"The (Gaganyaan) mission team is on track and already work is going on," Sivan said. "The first unmanned mission of Gaganyaan… we are planning for December 2020, (in order) to have the first human in space mission by December 2021. This is a target we are setting (for ourselves)," he added.

 ISRO reveals plans for Gaganyaans unmanned missions in 2020 aboard GSLV MkIII D2 rocket

A fully-integrated GSLV stands inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Image: ISRO

Sivan also announced that ISRO will have two such unmanned missions with the GSLV-MkIII rocket before it carries Indian astronauts to low-Earth orbit.

"(The) third one will be (a) manned mission. First, we will follow all the parameters and if it does not work, we will fly the second unmanned mission. Once it gets confirmed, we will go for (a) human mission," Sivan said.

The unmanned mission will test India’s capabilities to launch humans into space, sustain them for 5-7 days as they carry out experiments, and bring them back safely, the ISRO chief explained.

Gaganyaan’s crew module to house astronauts, its life support systems to keep them alive in space, and the spacecraft's environmental-control systems have already been developed according to earlier reports.

ISRO Chairman K Shivan addressing the press in New Delhi on 28 August, 2018. Image courtesy: Deparment of Space

ISRO Chairman K Shivan addressing the press in New Delhi on 28 August 2018. Image courtesy: Department of Space

The GSLV-MkIII-D2, which will be used to carry the astronauts to space is "excellent, reliable, simple," in Sivan's view.

The 43.4-metre tall GSLV-MkIII rocket weighs roughly 640 tonnes and equipped to carry satellites as heavy as four tonnes into space.

The successful launch of GSAT-29 adds to a series of test flights ISRO is carrying out to develop the agency’s heaviest rocket for the manned space mission.

ISRO had flown a similar rocket on 5 June 2017 when it launched GSAT-19, another communication satellite developed by the agency, in the rocket's historic first developmental launch.

When asked about launch plans for Gaganyaan, Sivan said, "It will be happening from Sriharikota… and for that launch, we have to modify the launch pad."

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