Govt okays Rs 10K cr Gaganyaan project
NEW DELHI: Giving a boost to the country's maiden human spaceflight programme, the Union Cabinet on Friday approved a budget of Rs 10,000 crore for India's Gaganyaan project, whose 2022 deadline was fixed by PM Narendra Modi during his I-Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, 2018.
"The Union Cabinet has approved the Gaganyaan project under which a three-member crew will be sent to space for at least seven days," Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced at a press conference on Friday.
The manned mission will help India become the fourth country in the world after Russia, US and China to send humans to space.
Elated with the Cabinet decision, Isro chairman K Sivan said on Friday, "We are happy that the government has approved the budget for the mission. It is an ambitious and mammoth exercise but Isro has taken up the challenge and we will meet the PM's 2022 deadline. In fact, we have been working on the project for the last four months. I have set up a team to work on the design for the mission. The design work will be over by January. Thereafter, the realisation work will start."
Announcing the schedule for test launches before the final mission, the Isro chairman said, "We will launch two unmannned missions before the final mission. The first unmanned test-flight will be launched in December 2020. The second unmanned test will be conducted in July 2021 and finally the humanspace flight will be launched in December 2021."
On training of astronauts, Sivan said, "With the budget cleared for the mission, now we will work seriously on the training schedule of the crew, including the foreign training, if needed."
Earlier, Sivan, accompanied by minister of state for atomic energy and space Jitendra Singh, had made a presentation on the mission in Delhi explaining the process.
"A crew module carrying three Indians will be attached with a service module. Together, these two modules will comprise the orbital module that will be integrated with an advanced GSLV Mk III rocket. The rocket will take the crew to the low-earth orbit (300-400 km) where they will perform micro-gravity and other scientific experiments for a week," he had said.
For the return journey, the Isro chairman said, "The orbital module will reorient itself. The crew and service modules will get separated at 120km altitude. The crew module will apply aerobrake to reduce speed and parachutes will open just before the splashdown in the Arabian Sea off Gujarat. The return journey will take 36 minutes. In case of a technical problem, the module can land in the Bay of Bengal as a backup."
"The module will be the size of a small cubicle (3.4 m diametre) with a mass of 7 tonnes," he added.
The Isro chief said the manned mission, preparation for which started way back in 2004, "will provide employment to 15,000 people".
On crew selection, he had said, "The spacesuit is ready. The crew members will be jointly selected by the IAF and Isro after which they will be trained for two-three years. We will send them to a training facility in Bengaluru. We are also consulting Rakesh Sharma (first Indian cosmonaut to go to space in 1984) for the mission."
During the presentation, Union minister Jitendra Singh had said, "We won't call it a manned mission as the PM has said in his I-Day speech that a girl can also be sent to space. This programme will totally be an indigenous mission. However, we can send the selected crew for training abroad."
During the presentation, the minister had told TOI, "We are not sending robots or animals to space first. The reason being there are several advantages of sending humans to space. They can do several experiments in space and experience the changes in human behaviour, including psychological and biological changes."
Till date, Isro has spent Rs 173 crore in developing critical technologies for the human spaceflight. Earlier this year, Isro had carried out a crucial pad abort trial on July 5 in which a 12.5-ton crew module was tested to make sure the crew can be rescued safely in case of an accident on the launchpad. Isro has been working on some critical technologies for quite some time.
The budget approval will now fast-track the programme. Critical technologies needed for HSP include a crew module (CM), crew escape system (CES) and environmental control and life support system (ECLSS). An advanced version of the GSLV-MkIII is designated as the launch vehicle. Isro had flight-tested an earlier version of the crew module in December 2014.