ISRO starts Human Space Flight centre

Gaganyaan, India’s mission to send astronauts to space, is slated to happen before December 2021.

January 11, 2019 12:37 pm | Updated January 25, 2019 11:01 am IST - Bengaluru

ISRO Chairman K. Sivan during a media interaction in Bengaluru on Friday.

ISRO Chairman K. Sivan during a media interaction in Bengaluru on Friday.

Gaganyaan, the great Indian human leap to space by 2022, will soon get cracking under a new Human Space Flight Centre and a dedicated team around five months after it was first unveiled. A team of 800 to 900 people is to be deployed over time to carry it out.

Indian Space Research Organisation on Friday named Unnikrishnan Nair, who led its Advanced Space Transportation Programme at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, as the man to steer it - as also the director of the new centre. Dr. Nair has already been involved in this work for a few years as director, Human Space Flight Project. ISRO.R.Hutton, who has helmed the PSLV light lift vehicle programme, also from Thiruvananthapuram, is the project director in that set-up.

K.Sivan, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space announced the new set-up soon after forming it. A handful of deputy directors each for the centre and the project have also been picked.

"Gaganyaan is our highest priority now. We have put in a management structure to realise it. The Human Space Flight Centre [based in Bengaluru] will carry out all activities related to the human programme. Under it will function the Gaganyaan Project."

Dr. Sivan explained, "All work related to the mission will formally begin now," including the schedule, blueprint of various tasks, astronaut selection with the Indian Air Force and systems based on the project report.

He told The Hindu that the nodal Human Space Programme Office set up six months back under V.R.Lalithambika would continue to coordinate mission affairs at the headquarters here, Antariksh Bhavan.

ISRO has projected to the government a manpower requirement of 861 including 761 to be appointed in addition to the routine annual hirings. However, they would be recruited in stages.

ISRO's own Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, which produces around 100 space engineers each year, will be a primary source of talent, said a senior official

"The year 2019 has started with a big bang with Gaganyaan getting the government's approval and budget for putting threre astronauts in space for seven days," Dr. Sivan said. The astronauts will orbit Earth from an orbit 400 km away.

The project, according to him, will be a major turning point for ISRO, expanding its activities beyond engineering activities of launchers and satellites - and into the realm of developing and handling technologies to sustain humans in space.

"The HSPC will work full steam now. We must select the astronauts, train them, create and ensure livable conditions in space for them bring them back safely and later rehabilitate them in their routine," Dr. Sivan said.

The heavy lift launch vehicle GSLV MarkIII - which got operational in November after its second successive flight in a row, must be suitably certified or human-rated. It will have two non-crew flights in December 2020 and July 2021.

The actual flight with crew is targeted to happen by December 2021 - to meet the Prime Minister's goal of August 2022, India's 75th year of Independence.

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