As ISRO prepares to meet the timeline for the first of the unmanned missions of Gaganyaan by December this year, it is currently carrying out an internal assessment as to whether the mission can take off as per its schedule. As per sources in ISRO the mission is expected to take off as planned in December 2021 but the lockdowns due to the two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the delivery schedules of the Gaganyaan mission. Post the report by the internal team ISRO will further update on the exact status of the mission and whether the launch will stick to its December 2021 timeline.
During an earlier exclusive interaction with THE WEEK, the ISRO chairman K Sivan February 2021 prior to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic the designs for the Gaganyaan mission were getting finalised and now the realisation was expected to start. Sivan had informed that initially ISRO's target was to finish the two unmanned Gaganyaan missions by July 2021 and the manned mission by December 2021 but everything was delayed due to the pandemic. It was reported that there was a delay in realisation of hardware systems for the project due to the subsequent lockdowns due to the Second wave of the pandemic.
“We plan to have at least one unmanned Gaganyaan mission this year. We need two successful unmanned missions before the manned missions. In the space environment, there are a lot of ‘unknown unknowns’, which we are not able to understand before the flight. This applies to all missions and not only Gaganyaan. For space missions we take at least two development flights. During the first development flight, we look for any technical deviations of whatever we were expecting and whatever has happened. Based on this observation the second development flight is launched. The aim is to bring out unknown issues which we had not anticipated on ground,” Sivan had remarked.
As per reports Indian and France have signed an agreement for cooperation for the Gaganyaan mission which will enable Indian flight physicians to train at French facilities. Under the agreement the equipment developed by France, tested and operating aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will be available to Indian crews. Besides this Indian is also taking help from Russian and the U.S. space agencies for the Gaganyaan mission. Indian has also gone into an agreement with the Australian space agency for the establishment of a transportable terminal in Australia to support its Gaganyaan mission.
Four astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission in Russia have returned to India in April this year for the second leg of their advanced training in India. Earlier Sivan had told THE WEEK that the four astronauts will be imparted mission-specific training in India. The astronauts are being trained to handle emergency situations as part of the mission-specific training mostly at ISRO’s Satellite Integration and Testing Establishment (ISITE) in Bengaluru. “It will be an ongoing training and will continue till the launch of the mission. The aim of this continuous training is to ensure physical fitness,” Sivan had said.
As per reports ISRO Chairman K Sivan had said that still he was not in a position to comment on whether the agency would be able to meet the target of August 2022 for the manned Gaganyaan mission at the moment or not.