Gaganyaan: Four Indian Air Force pilots selected for ISRO’s first manned-mission

Indian Space Research Organisation chairman K Sivan on Wednesday said that 2020 will be a year of Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan (human spaceflight mission). The space agency has targeted over 25 missions this year. “Chandrayaan-3 will have a lander, rover and a propulsion module, ” said Siva.

India will send four air force pilots to Russia this month to train them as astronauts, as the country’s space agency steps up efforts for its maiden human spaceflight in 2022 and is planning a second attempt to land a rover on the moon next year.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has earmarked Rs 600 crore towards Chandrayaan-3, a spacecraft that is designed to land on the moon and a rover that would travel 500 meters on the moon’s surface, its chairman, K Sivan said here on Wednesday.

In September, ISRO’s lander Vikram crashed on the moon after the vehicle lost control during the descent. The space agency is aiming to test a rocket with an unmanned crew module and a humanoid on board by next year, ahead of the Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission planned for 2022. ISRO has planned for more than 25 missions in 2020, Sivan said. It has sought more than Rs 14,000 crore as budget from the government for its programs in fiscal 2021, he added.

Sivan said the agency was setting up a second spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. It will initially be dedicated to its small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV), which is scheduled to make its first launch this year. “We need around 2,300 acres for this,” he said.

ISRO is looking at SSLV, a rocket that can be assembled in three to five days for launch, as a vehicle to hurl small satellites — a market where it currently has a lead over other space agencies. ISRO’s commercial arm, New Space India, is engaged with industry partners to assemble the SSLV as well as the PSLV, Sivan said. ISRO plans to outsource the production of five PSLVs in the next two years.

ISRO has got approval to use its navigation with the Indian Constellation (NavIC) — the country’s own version of GPS — for use on mobile phones, a move that would allow smartphone users to include the feature in their future products. This will help in increasing accuracy during navigation across the country. “NavIC will soon be available for mobile phones. US chipmaker Qualcomm has collaborated with ISRO on this,” Sivan said.

India has a fleet of nine navigation satellites as part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. It plans to launch another navigation satellite with a homegrown atomic clock — a key instrument that improves accuracy.

In October, Qualcomm said it had included NavIC support to its new chipsets that would be sold to smartphone makers. “The initiative will help accelerate the adoption of NavIC and enhance the geolocation capabilities of mobile, automotive and the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions — with the backing of engineering talent in India,” Qualcomm had said in a statement.

Separately, an ISRO official said Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi could release two-three midmarket handsets with the NaVIC receiver system later this year. 

Sivan said the Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, crashed on the moon’s surface after the extra brake thrust spun the spacecraft out of control, leading to its hard landing.

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