BENGALURU — Gaganyaan, the human space flight programme set for 2022 is an extremely challenging but an achievable mission according to the Chairman of the Indian government space agency - Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K. Sivan.

When it achieves the mission (called Gaganyaan where “Gagan” means heaven and “yaan” stands for

vehicle/coach), India would be the fourth nation to circle the earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese.

The Indian mission is estimated at $1.4 billion (₹9000 crore).

According to Sivan, it would be possible to achieve the human space flight programme (HSP) within the given time-frame because it is a work in progress. “We are not doing this for the first time, and we are also not starting the mission from the scratch. We are already on the job and several important components s such as crew module, crew escape systems, and environment control and life support systems, have already been completed,” he said in a report in rediff.com.

Most of the critical technologies and hardware required for the project are ready or have already been in the beta stage for this $1.4 billion.

According to another report in The Hindu, ISRO would now collate them into a complete project and present a comprehensive project report to get a formal approval by the government, Dr. Sivan said. “We have tested the necessary critical technologies required and are confident of achieving it,” he added.

“We will now speed up the paper-work and submit a project report for formal approval. We may immediately need around $300 million (₹ 2,000 crore) for enhancing infrastructure and technologies at two or three centres and we will be asking for this amount,” he noted.

The seed for HSP was sown almost 14 years ago when ISRO received initial funding in 2004 and later on received incremental funds for supporting projects over the next few years. It could not go ahead mainly because the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mark III) vehicle was not ready until last year.

“In the last few years, we did a lot of groundwork as part of R&D at our centres. We have developed most of the critical technologies needed for a human mission. We demonstrated the flight of a crew module and its re-entry in 2014. On July 5 this year, we conducted an experiment for emergency escape of astronauts called the Pad Abort Test. It will be repeated at higher distances. The rest of the technologies are getting ready and will be realised in time.”

The most critical elements of the human mission are the Environment Control and Life Support Systems that make the crew capsule liveable and the flight safe for the astronauts. Food and hygiene are other aspects. These technologies are getting ready while space suits are being developed at ISRO, he said.

Facilities are being added or upgraded at a few centres that work on the HSP. The spacecraft will be monitored 24/7 from the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Centre (ISTRAC) where a new dedicated control centre for HSP would be set up. It would be tracked globally through ISRO stations or of other countries.

While formal agreements are not yet in place, ISRO will collaborate with the Indian Air Force and its Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, to train astronauts. Various defence labs will be tapped for crew support systems.

Much of the work related to advanced infrastructure and supply of hardware would be outsourced to industry, he added.

— Sufia Tippu is a freelance tech journalist based in India contributing to EE Times India