The Director of ISRO’s Human Space Flight Centre, R Umamaheshwaran divulged details of the Gaganyaan Mission as he informed the space agency’s plan of conducting a series of test flights starting February 2023. Umamaheshwaran made the revelation while addressing the Indian Space Congress in New Delhi. ISRO plans to deploy the heavy-lift Chinook helicopter along with the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft for the first test flight. This will be testing the crew module that is supposed to carry the astronauts under the mission.
“Gaganyaan is not an Indian mission but an international programme as it involves collaboration with several countries like Russia, France and Australia for astronaut training and getting components for the mission.” In the space sector, India has around 250 MoUs with more than 61 countries, R Umamaheshwaran added.
As per ISRO’s plan, the agency is gearing for conducting 17 different tests before moving ahead with an unmanned space flight in December 2023.
R Umamaheshwaran also informed the gathering at the event that the agency has already completed the design work for the Environment Control System. This indigenously designed Environment Control System will be responsible for ensuring the astronauts get ambient living conditions during the mission. R Umamaheshwaran also said that designing the Environment Control System is one of the most crucial phases of the mission. It is this system that will ensure the crew is in proper condition during the re-entry phase also. During re-entry, the outside temperature of the crew module sometimes reaches as high as 2000 degrees Celsius.
While speaking at the event organised by the SatCom Industry Association, R Umamaheshwaran added, “The crew module, where the astronauts are supposed to sit and fly, is completed and the fabrication work is on. Within six months, we will get the crew module.”
“We have to provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, remove humidity, maintain temperature and also ensure there is no fire hazard. This is a very complex technology that no country would give us,” he added.
In his statement, R Umamaheshwaran further said, “We have the capability to design, so we are doing that and that only is taking a little bit of time. We have completed all the designs and now is the time to prove that whatever has been designed is safe enough. That is the entire effort.”
The Gaganyaan Mission was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech in 2018. At that time, the deadline for the mission was set to be 2022 marking the special occasion of the country completing 75 years of freedom from colonial rule. However, the pandemic delayed the speed of the project because of many restrictions in 2020 and 2021 that were in place. The Indian space agency now plans to complete the launch by end of 2024 or maximum by the beginning of next year i.e. 2025. As per ISRO plans, the mission will carry four qualified astronauts into space. All four astronauts have been selected and their initial training for the mission has been also completed in Russia. These astronauts are at the moment undergoing further training in Bengaluru at the Astronaut Training Facility.