An unmanned crew module will be put in orbit around the earth by a modified Polar Satellite Launch (PSLV) in 2013 as a forerunner to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sending two Indians into space, S. Ramakrishnan, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, ISRO, said here on Monday.

India has plans to send two Indians into space in a low-earth orbit and they will stay in space for about a week before returning to the earth. A third launch pad, at a cost of Rs.1,000 crore, will be built at Sriharikota, where the rocket that will take the Indian astronauts into space will be assembled and launched.

Mr. Ramakrishnan told a press conference here, after the successful PSLV-C15 flight, that the module in which the Indian astronauts would go into space had already been designed. The life-support systems, the thermal-proofing on board the module and the crew escape system in case of an emergency had already been defined. “We are also planning a launch pad abort for the crew in case of an accident,” Mr. Ramakrishnan said.

ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan explained that the ISRO needed a highly reliable vehicle to take humans into space. Such rockets were called human-rated vehicles. Certain crucial facilities such as a new launch pad for sending human beings into space had to be built at the spaceport in Sriharikota. Facilities to handle the astronauts when they returned to the earth also needed to be built here. In the first phase of India’s Human Spaceflight Programme, these critical technologies including the re-entry technology would be developed. In the second phase, a human rated vehicle would be developed. In the third phase, astronauts would be trained to go into space. Normally, it took three years to train an astronaut, Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

Narayanamoorthy N., Chief Executive, Human Spaceflight Programme, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, said the most important technology to be developed was the crew escape system. In the programme’s first phase, the module that would take the crew into space and a PSLV with a modified first stage would be built. An unmanned module, it would be identical to the final module. A host of technologies including life-support systems aboard the module and avionics would be developed in India with the help of research laboratories and industries, Mr. Narayanamoorthy said.

The location for the third launch pad site had been decided upon, said M.C. Dathan, Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. It would boast of a vehicle assembly building where not only the ISRO’s current but future vehicles would be stacked up.

R.R. Navalgund, Director, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, said Cartosat-2B, launched on Monday from Sriharikota, could be used in a variety of ways, depending on the imagination of the user. The images taken by its panchromatic camera could be used for planning roads in villages, building harbours, preparing accurate maps, keeping a watch on encroachments, and for various infrastructural activities, said Dr. Navalgund.

(Cartosat-2B’s images will have a resolution of 0.8 metres. In other words, the satellite from a height of 637 km, can take pictures of objects on the earth, which are three-feet long. The images can be used for estimating the acreage and the yield of crops; for finding out various types of forests and how thick the vegetation is; for laying ring roads and digging new canals; keeping a watch on mangroves and coral formations, and estimating the amount of water available in reservoirs and big lakes).

Mr. P.S. Veeraraghavan, Director, VSSC, said a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV - F06) will lift off from Sriharikota by the end of September or the first week of October this year. The stacking of its stages would begin in the second launch pad from July 14 (Wednesday).

A PSLV-C16 rocket would put in orbit Resourcesat-2 by the middle of October. It would also put in orbit two other satellites. The stacking of the PSLV-C16’s four stages would begin in August at Sriharikota.

Keywords: ISROspace programme