In a major development, India’s premier space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has set new deadlines for important missions. As per the new deadline, ISRO is set to launch its first solar mission and third lunar mission in the first quarter of 2023. The same year, it is also scheduled to launch XpoSat to study cosmetic x-rays. ISRO will launch the Gaganyaan mission in the latter part of 2023.
In his written answer to the Parliament on July 20, 2022, Union Minister in the Department of Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, said that the agency will launch the ‘space docking experiment’ in 2024. Importantly, space docking is a process of joining together two spacecraft that were separately launched. It is used to set up modular space stations.
Earlier in 2019, ISRO had announced its aim to set up the country’s own space station in five to seven years. It has also been said that the space station will be an extension of the spaceflight programme and that the space station will weigh nearly 20 tonnes. It will also be able to house astronauts in low orbit for close to 15-20 days.
As per the minister, the first Gaganyaan mission will be undertaken in the latter part of 2022. It will be Gaganyaan’s first abort demonstration mission. Earlier in 2018, ISRO had already conducted a pad abort test, under which astronauts can escape from the spacecraft in case an emergency arises at the launch pad.
ISRO has developed test vehicles for abort missions, which can send the systems higher to a certain extent and check the escape system. Notably, the escape mission of the Gaganyaan included five “quick-acting” solid fuel motors along with a high burn rate propulsion system, as well as fins for stability. This system will be separated from the crew module by firing explosive nuts.
Importantly, all the three missions that are estimated to be launched in 2023 were pushed back to 2020 due to the Covid pandemic which slowed down the activities of the space agency. Including launch missions.