(This News Article Is Originally Posted on The Times Of India by Surendra Singh)
The Gaganyaan manned mission, hit by the pandemic-triggered restrictions, has been further delayed and India’s maiden human spaceflight launch is not likely before 2023. “First unmanned mission is planned in December 2021.
The second unmanned flight is planned in 2022-23, followed by human spaceflight demonstration,” Union minister of state for space Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply recently. Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI that a “human-rated GSLV MkIII rocket with a modified top portion involving provision for a crew module and a crew escape system is being readied for the first unmanned mission in December and a humanoid to be sent on it will be ready by October”.
The minister also informed Lok Sabha that additional Rs 900 crore was allocated to Isro for financial year 2020-21 for developing capacity and launching satellites. On foreign satellites launched by India, Singh stated that the total number of satellites launched till date is 328 from 33 countries and the revenue earned is “25 million dollars and 189 million euros”.
On Covid restrictions stalling the programme, the minister said in the reply that the astronaut training in Russia was halted over a month “for a period from 28th March 2020 to 11th May 2020” and the training “henceforth resumed since 12th May 2020”.
“Isro is striving towards achieving Atmanirbharta in the field of capacity development in launching satellites; therefore, no policy is envisaged for seeking foreign cooperation in this direction,” a Department of Space statement said.
The Gaganyaan mission will not be India’s solitary space mission as Isro, for a sustained human presence in space, is coming out with a policy framework and a long-term roadmap. The agency has sought suggestions on its “Draft Humans in Space Policy for India, 2021” by February 28. Sivan said suggestions on the draft will be reviewed by March and a concrete shape to the policy will be given thereafter. “Thereafter, we will work on human space exploration, launch vehicle, national space policies and finally the Space Act,” he said.
About another big project, the Isro chairman told TOI that the agency is planning to switch over to the electric propulsion (EP) system in satellites and will soon have all geo satellites loaded with this technology for space manoeuvring.
“We will launch a technology demonstrator satellite somewhere in October-December to test three technologies — our own EP system, indigenous atomic clock and travelling wave tube amplifier, a key component for communication satellites. Currently, nearly 50% mass of a satellite comprises chemical fuel. Once the EP is used, it will occupy less space and bigger satellites can be launched,” Sivan said, adding “we are also planning for dual EP and a mini chemical propulsion system for a better thrust with less mass”.
On missions scheduled this year, Sivan said, “Besides the unmanned Gaganyaan mission, we are targeting to launch the first demonstration test-flight of a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (mini-PSLV), two advanced geo satellites, one remote sensing satellite and an upgraded Oceansat this year.”