Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ISRO's great expectations

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Radhakrishnan was upbeat when he met the media after the successful launch of PSLV-C15 and gave details of the future programmes like Chandrayaan-2 and the manned mission.

He made it clear that the manned mission involved just putting astronauts in space and not on the moon. Chandrayaan-2 was in its advanced stages of design. The idea was to make a soft landing on the moon and release a small rover for lunar exploration that can be controlled from ground. The rover prototype model has already been made and the project would be ready for launch by 2013.

For the manned mission, at least two astronauts would be sent to space. While the launch vehicle was almost ready, ISRO is working on the capsule design. A crew escape system in case of emergency is vital for a manned mission. It has now been defined.

After the capsule is ready, it would be sent unmanned to space in 2013 using PSLV to monitor it in orbit for at least seven days. If all goes well, astronauts would next be put in space using the capsule with GSLV-MK3 as the launch vehicle.

The avionics of the project is currently under development. “We have to put in place a proper environmental control life support system with thermal controls. For launching human beings and bringing them back, a high reliability vehicle is important. New facilities that we need include a new launch pad, a facility to take care of crew before they go and after they come back, a mission control centre and an astronaut training centre,” the scientists said.

The government had approved a pre-project study for Rs 95 crore in 2006. Proposals have been submitted and approval awaited.

“The existing PSLV can’t be used. It has to be modified. We have two launch pads right now but none can be used for the manned mission. A third launch pad is now being proposed for which a location has been identified. Approvals are now awaited. A second vertical assembly building programme also has to be initiated. The entire manned mission project would cost close to Rs 1,000 crore,” said Satish Dhawan Space Centre director M C Dathan.