The Gaganyaan mission, an unscrewed take off for which had been scheduled for December this year, now stands delayed. Delays in deliveries of valuable parts of the aircraft and related mechanics due to the restrictions in place for Covid-19 are said to be the reason.
“Definitely it will not be possible in December. It’s delayed”, Chairman of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), Mr. K Sivan, told PTI.
On Independence Day, 2018, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had announced the program that would first send two unscrewed or unarmed aircrafts up in space, with humanoids aboard, before sending a three-member crew (and an extra) to space for a period of five to seven days.
The intention was to launch the manned spaceflight before India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022.
ISRO said its heavy-lifter GSLV MkIII launcher was identified for the Gaganyaan mission, and the process for human rating (compatible for carrying humans) of the rocket was in progress. It may be ready post certain tweaks.
Four Indian astronaut-candidates (Test Pilots of Indian Air Force) have already been selected and undergone generic space flight training in Russia as part of the programme.
“Mostly, it will start next month. The training will happen at different locations. Academic training, aircraft trials, Navy trials, survival trials, simulation trials… the training is repeated, updated till they fly.” Sivan said.
The crew management activities are being taken care of by Indian Air Force.
ISRO has signed MoUs with seven labs of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for help with the design and development of human-centric products. A similar agreement has been signed with academic institutes for the development of Microgravity payloads.
The human-centric products include space food and potable water, crew health monitoring system, emergency survival kit, and crew medical kit.
ISRO also has the help of French, Russian and US space agencies in “some of the crucial activities and supply of components,” for Gaganyaan, sources said
There is no new fixed timeframe announced as of yet.
Chandrayaan-3, India’s third mission to the moon, is also likely to be delayed, slipping to 2022, Sivan told PTI.
The 2019 Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully put an orbiter around the moon, but the landing attempt ended in the loss of communications despite a nominal descent down to an altitude of around two kilometres.
The mission will involve a lander and a small rover similar to Chandrayaan-2, but no orbiter. If successful, Chandrayaan-3 could make India the fourth country to successfully soft-land on the moon.