The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has set up a Human Space Flight Center to implement its Rs 9023-crore programme to launch the country’s maiden manned mission into space by 2021.
The centre, a new management structure within the organisation, will be in charge of all human-related programme at the ISRO, including the Gaganyaan project, that will send three astronauts to orbit the earth.
ISRO chairman K Sivan Friday said scientist Unnikrishnan Nair has been named director of the centre. “Nair was earlier with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. The project director for Gaganyaan will be R Hutton, who is now project director for the PSLV programme.” Sivan said the approval for the Gaganyaan project by the government, including Rs 10,000 crore fund in December last year, is a major turning point for the ISRO, for which the space agency will require major expansion.
“When you are talking about Gaganyaan, we have to select a human being, train him and send him to space in a condition that is conducive for him to live and then return to earth. There are two aspects that we have to build — engineering and human science. The human science aspect is new for ISRO,” Sivan said.
The ISRO director said the space agency’s human space programme would not end with Gaganyaan. “We are going to continue the programme in terms of sending humans to a space station and the moon. Along with Gaganyaan, this parallel activity of human space programme is getting added,” he said.
An ISRO official told The Indian Express that Gaganyaan is of the “highest priority in 2019. We are planning to have the first unmanned mission in December 2020. The second flight is targeted for July 2021. For the first manned mission, the target is December 2021.”
“The unmanned vehicles will be of the same type as the manned flight vehicle and we will monitor extensively if the systems are working. In case there are some deficiencies, we will correct them after the unmanned missions. These unmanned missions are meant to give us the confidence that we are ready for the manned mission,” the ISRO chairman said.