NEW DELHI: Isro, which has dedicated most of its resources to ensure the uncrewed mission as part of the Gagakonan programme takes off this year as announced in the union budget, is confident of a December launch even as work on some systems are still ongoing.
And, the agency may go ahead with the uncrewed mission without the indigenous data relay satellite and some aspects of the human rating of the systems. But both will be ready much ahead of the launch of humans.
The Gaganyaan Advisory Council (GAC) that met recently has also advised Isro not to delay the uncrewed mission. GAC, the apex panel on Gaganyaan comprises people from various Isro departments, academia, industry, army, navy, IAF, coast guard, DRDO, DST, IISc, IIT-Bombay, all other stakeholders including astronaut Rakesh Sharma, who are contributing to the mission and involved in the operations.
Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI: “The GAC met at the end of March and unanimously advised us that the first uncrewed mission must happen at the earliest as it would give us crucial input for the manned mission. The relay satellite is required for Gaganyaan, but in case it is not ready by the time we launch the uncrewed mission, we may use another satellite. We are looking to tie up with some other agency. But by the time the manned mission happens, we will have our own.”
The data relay satellite — Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS) — are in the 2,000 kg class that will need the GSLV for their launch into GEO. As per Isro’s plans, Gaganyaan will be the first beneficiary of the IDRSS, which will be later also used for space-to-space tracking and communication of all space assets.
“Tracking and communication with any spacecraft will need a network of ground stations which will use the relay satellite to stay in touch with the spacecraft so as to ensure a continuous monitoring of all aspects of the spacecraft, including its path. At any given point — during the launch and even when Gaganyaan spacecraft is orbiting — at least one ground station needs to be able to see it. But with the current network that won’t be possible, and that’s where the relay satellite comes into play,” another senior scientist explained.
Further Sivan said that the first uncrewed mission will demonstrate all the key systems designed and developed for Gaganyaan so as to give the agency time to make any changes that may arise before the manned mission.
“…For instance, the launch vehicle has a new configuration with CES (crew escape system) at the top, which will be flying for the first time. The characterisation of the vehicle, the in-orbit communication, thermal management and protection system during re-entry, control and guidance till the time we touch down and the recovery process upon touch down will all be tested,” Sivan said.
He said the process of human rating was ongoing and that testing of the core stage is nearing completion. “Solid motor testing is planned before the first unmanned mission, cryo stage testing is going on. GLSV will be mostly human rated— the ergonomic characteristics and so on — but it will be fully ready before the manned mission,” Sivan said.