As part of ISRO's preparations for India's maiden space flight, Unnikrishnan Nair has been appointed director of a newly formed Human Space Flight Centre. The appointment was announced by ISRRO chairman K. Sivan at a special briefing in Bengaluru on Friday. The centre would come up at Bengaluru on land already owned by ISRO. The project is aiming for a launch of a human in December 2021.
Nair was programme director of the Advanced Space Transportation Programme at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, where he was in charge of new technology in vehicles like human-rated craft and reusable launch vehicles. The new appointment is, thus, a natural transition for him.
R. Hutton has been appointed project director for Gaganyaan, India's ambitious project to put Indians in space.
The cabinet recently gave approval for the Rs 10,000 crore project.
Meanwhile, the launch of Chandrayaan-2 has been delayed once more. Sivan said ISRO is looking at a window in March-April 2019, with a likely launch in mid-April. The lunar probe was to be sent off in January, but Sivan said it required further tests.
If the March-April launch window is missed, the next window will be in July.
A big ticket space launch close to elections will certainly be a boost to the incumbent government, which can cash in on the success. Sivan, however, made it very clear that there was no interference from the government and that these were scientific missions and their deadlines were not politically decided.