Human space mission: move on, NASA and SpaceX, ISRO is here

Under the chairmanship of S Somanath, the organization is expected to propel the Gaganyaan mission, taking Indians into space in 2023.

Gaganyaan, India’s ₹9,023 crore first human space program, will see its first uncrewed mission take place in the first half of this year.

India’s Space Research Organization, which has led the way in various fields – such as sending probe missions to Mars and the Moon – is gearing up for space travel. In doing so, it would take on Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orion Span, and other corporate-backed entities, as well as state-run missions such as NASA.

The Gaganyaan, India’s 9,023-crore first human space program, will see its first uncrewed mission unfold in the first half of this year, according to schedule. After another uncrewed mission, a crewed mission will take off in 2023, making India the fourth country to take humans into space, after the United States, Russia and China.

The change in leadership at ISRO should speed up the mission. Rocket scientist S Somanath has been named space secretary and new ISRO president to succeed K Sivan, who ends his extended term on January 14. Somanath, 58, said space sector reforms are among his priorities. He was previously director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. A Mechanical Engineering graduate from Kerala University, Somanath completed his postgraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at IISc-Bangalore.

Mission Gaganyaan moving forward

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After several disruptions to the schedule due to the pandemic, ISRO began serious work on Gaganyaan. The program aims to send humans into low Earth orbit (LEO) aboard an Indian launch vehicle and return them safely. The preparation takes place in several stages. As part of the first stage, the flight of the test vehicle for the validation of the performance of the crew evacuation system and the first uncrewed mission will take place, probably in the second half of 2022.

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By the end of the year, the second unmanned mission will take place. It will carry the human space robot Vyommitra, developed by ISRO. Subsequently, the first crewed mission will take three humans into space, in 2023.

On Wednesday, the organization successfully conducted the qualification test of the program’s cryogenic engine for 720 seconds at the ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) at Mahendragiri in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. “This successful long-duration test is a major milestone for the Gaganyaan human space program. It guarantees the reliability and robustness of the cryogenic engine for induction in the Gaganyaan human launch vehicle,” ISRO said in a statement.

Preparations are in full swing

The rest of the preparations are done on an industrial scale. Orders for crew seats, space suits, portholes and other hardware have been placed with Russian entities. Experiments in microgravity have begun. ISRO also uses private companies, including start-ups, to manage various aspects of the mission.

“More than 500 industries are involved in the launch of Gaganyaan, with several research modules including an indigenous health research module,” Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha last month. . “This has been made possible because for the first time in 70 years the sector has been opened up to private participation to make India a competitive space market.”

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