The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be ready to send the country’s first astronauts to space in forty months time; the launch will take 16 minutes and three astronauts will spend 5-7 days in space before re-entry.
Detailing the space agency’s plans after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Gaganyaan Mission on August 15, ISRO Chairman K Sivan Tuesday said that he was confident of meeting the Prime Minister’s target of sending humans to space.
Sivan also said that ISRO is in constant touch with Air Force pilot Rakesh Sharma, who is the only Indian citizen who has travelled to space, as part of the Soviet Union’s ‘Intercosmos’ programme in 1984. “We are constantly in touch with Rakesh Sharma. We are calling and getting his advice and experience and it is very useful,” Sivan said.
According to ISRO, the agency has prioritised selecting astronauts. “Right now is the time to select astronauts. For the first mission, the preference will be for pilots but the selection and training process will be done jointly by the Indian Air Force and ISRO,” he said. “The astronauts will remain in space for a week and will do microgravity experiments.”
Sivan also said that two unmanned Gaganyaan missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans (in 30 months time, and then 36 months), and the entire cost of the mission will be less than Rs 10,000 crore. “The estimated cost is less than Rs10,000 crore, and totally indigenous, very cost-effective even by Indian standards. From international standards, it is unbelievable,” said Minister of State in-charge of Department of Science, Jitendra Singh.
Sivan explained that the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III, which has the necessary payload capability for this mission will be used to launch ‘Gaganyaan.’ The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km.
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“The astronauts will be inside a crew module which will be attached to a services module to maintain services for them, and then onto an orbital module. The orbital module will be placed on the launch vehicle for the launch,” he said. “The launch will take place within 16 minutes, the crew will be transported from Sriharikota to a low earth orbit of 400 km. They will stay in orbit for 5-7 days.”
The next phase is re-entry – when the velocity of the vehicle is reduced. “The whole module will be turned in the opposite direction and will start to come down. At 120 km from the Earth’s surface, the service module will be removed and separated out. The module carrying the crew alone will come back to earth, this will take about 36 minutes to reach here,” Sivan said.
“Right now we are planning to land in the Arabian Sea, closer to the Gujarat coast, from where the crew will be recovered.”
Sivan said that various technologies had been developed for this mission and that the research and development for this mission first began in 2004. Meanwhile, he said there will be 19 missions that ISRO will launch between September 2018 and March 2019, including Chandrayaan-2 in January next year, which will be the first mission to land near the south pole of the moon.