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India’s Gaganyaan Mission and Space Exploration Goals

Why is it in the news?

  • In a crucial step in India’s ambitious program to lift its astronauts into space, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will test its crew escape system (CES) on October 21, 2023.
  • The Gaganyaan mission, India’s first manned mission to space, is scheduled for 2025.

Current Status of the Gaganyaan Mission

PM directives to ISRO

·       Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed ISRO to achieve specific space exploration goals for India’s future.

·       The directives include setting up an indigenous space station, ‘Bharatiya Antariksha Station,’ by 2035.

·       The Prime Minister has also directed ISRO to land an Indian on the moon by 2040.

Gaganyaan Program Elements

  • The Gaganyaan program encompasses multiple components, with the rocket being one part.
  • The Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM-3) rocket, which will carry the crew into orbit, has undergone human rating and is virtually completed.
  • All systems and engines of the rocket have been tested and confirmed.

 Crew Module and Crew Escape System

  • A new crew module is under development for the Gaganyaan program.
  • India does not have the capability to manufacture the crew module internally, so efforts are underway to acquire it from outside sources.
  • The development of systems such as Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) is necessary for controlling temperature, oxygen levels, waste management, vibration, fire hazards, and more.

 Safety Systems

  • A crew escape system is being developed to safely evacuate astronauts in the event of rocket damage or malfunction.
  • An Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHMS) is under development to autonomously sense and respond to imminent failures during the mission.

 Testing Program

  • ISRO has planned numerous tests for various components, including helicopter-based tests, test-vehicle-based tests, rocket-based tests, abort tests, unmanned tests, and robotic missions.
  • Testing will continue for the next one to one and a half years, with daily tests being conducted.
  • Each subsystem and component will undergo hundreds of tests to ensure reliability.
  • An important test is scheduled for October 21, 2023, which will be an abort test.
  • During this test, the launch vehicle will take an unmanned crew module to a height of 17 km, simulate a mission abort, and test the crew escape system’s capability to safely return the module to the sea.
International Context

·       The International Space Station (ISS) is expected to be decommissioned by 2030 due to rising costs and financial disagreements among partner countries.

·       China’s Tiangong is another space station, but it is smaller than the ISS.

·       India signed the Artemis Accords with the United States, which could potentially lead to sending an Indian astronaut to the ISS in 2024.

 

Future Space Exploration Plans

  • The Department of Space (DoS) will create a roadmap for moon exploration, involving a series of Chandrayaan missions.
  • India aims to develop a new generation launch vehicle, construct a new launch pad, establish human-centric laboratories, and develop associated technologies.
  • The Prime Minister also encouraged scientists to work on interplanetary missions, including missions to orbit Venus and land on Mars.

 Challenges and Costs

  • Manned moon missions and the development of a space station will require significant investments and contributions from the private sector.
  • The technological advancements made since the Apollo missions would require rigorous testing, making missions expensive.

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