India’s first human spaceflight mission – Gaganyaan – is now expected to take off towards the end of 2024. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has planned to fly three Indian astronauts into space on a historic three-day maiden mission and bring them safely back to earth.
Union minister of state (independent charge) for science and technology Dr Jitendra Singh told Parliament on Wednesday that the work on the mission is currently in progress. Crew safety is paramount, and, therefore, two test vehicle missions are being planned before the final flight to demonstrate the success of the technology, he added.
The space agency has selected its heaviest launcher – the Launch Vehicle Mark (LVM)-3 – for the mission which is expected to target an altitude of 400 km in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in its first human spaceflight. “The un-crewed ‘G1’ mission is targeted to be launched in the last quarter of 2023 followed by the second uncrewed ‘G2’ mission in the second quarter of 2024, before the final human space flight ‘H1’ mission in the fourth quarter of 2024,” Singh told Parliament.
The mission has been constantly facing delays, mostly on account of the pandemic. It was initially expected to take off in December 2021.
First test mission next year
If all goes well, the first of the two test vehicle missions, ‘G-1’, would be launched next year. It would carry a humanoid as payload, and specifically focus on validating the performance of human-rated launch vehicle, orbital module propulsion system, as well as the overall mission management, communication system and recovery operations.
Both the test flights are aimed at demonstrating the performance of the crew escape system and parachute-based deceleration system for different flight conditions. This is critical to the safe return of the astronauts to earth. The space agency had recently conducted the safety tests for the parachutes wherein a five-tonne dummy mass equivalent to a crew module mass was taken to an altitude of 2.5 km and then dropped using the Indian Air Force’s IL-76 aircraft.
Training in progress
Meanwhile, the astronaut designates for the human space flight mission have already been identified and are currently undergoing their mission-specific training in Bengaluru, said the minister. “First semester of astronaut training has been completed wherein they have undergone course modules on theoretical basics, space medicine, launch vehicles, spacecraft system and ground support infrastructure,” he said, adding that the second semester of crew training is currently in progress.
Apart from theoretical training, the selected astronauts are also undergoing regular physical fitness sessions, aeromedical training, and flying practice.
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