India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has instructed his science and technology minister, Jitendra Singh, and the president of his space agency, Sreedhara Somanath, to define a roadmap with the aim of building its own space station by 2035.
The head of the New Delhi government has also expressed his desire to see the first pair of Indian astronauts walk on the surface of the Moon in 2040.. It is the second step to demonstrate to locals and strangers that the most populous nation in the world and with huge social imbalances is committed to exploring outer space.
The one and the other are the big ambitions that Narendra Modi has set in the high-level meeting he held in mid-October with the main people responsible for the public space ecosystem.. Before the national leadership of the space sector, he has reiterated his resolute commitment to keep the country among the most important powers in the world.
The President has expressed his confidence in India’s technological prowess, in light of the successes achieved in August by the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) with the lunar mission Chandrayan-3: the soft landing in August of the Vikram surface module – weighing about 1.5 tonnes – and the surface footage of his Pragyan vehicle, six wheels and 26 kilos. And for the proper launch into orbit in September of the Aditya L1 solar observing telescope, dedicated to studying wind and solar flares.
So buoyed by the recent string of successes, Narendra Modi has reaffirmed his commitment to the country’s key space projects.. As a priority with the Indian manned flight program, whose major initial steps must be the first manned Gangayaan mission – heavenly ship, in Spanish – the key to being able to inhabit the space station, which ISRO must assemble in 400 kilometers above sea level, before putting its feet on the moon.
Complete a heavy launch vehicle for manned flights
As an immediate result of what was discussed in the conclave, the CEO has ordered “to aim for new and ambitious targets”which includes “creating the Indian Space Station by 2035 and sending the first Indian to the Moon by 2040,” highlights the official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
With more than nine years at the helm of the nation, Modi is giving renewed impetus to ISRO plans. It wants to achieve full autonomy for India in the design, development and manufacture of heavy launch vehicles, manned capsules and spacecraft to power its future space station. If it succeeds, which is a matter of time and financial, technological and human resources, India will avoid being left out of the new space race being waged by the US and China.
The two major strategic milestones linked to outer space undertaken by the government in New Delhi seek to emulate the goals already achieved by Beijing, Asia’s undisputed space power.. It must be remembered that the first Chinese astronaut flew into space in October 2003, 20 years ago. It was fighter pilot Yang Liwei, then a lieutenant colonel in the air force.
Beijing has kept the Tiangong space complex in orbit since the beginning of the decade, is working to have its astronauts set foot on the Moon by 2030 and wants to build an international research base there.. Its astronauts number nearly fifty men and women, of whom about twenty have already traveled to space. Three of them are still aboard their space station, located between 350 and 400 kilometers above our heads.
India, on the other hand, has only four astronauts trained by Russia, all belonging to its air force, whose identities are kept secret.. But before they travel to space or the Moon with full safety assurance, ISRO needs to complete the development of a new generation heavy launch vehicle, which the agency calls NGLV, the Next Generation Launch Vehicle.
First test of the exhaust system
75 meters high, with a take-off weight of 700 tons, three stages of propulsion, new semi-cryogenic and partially reusable engines, the first tests of the NGLV are planned for 2030. In parallel, it involves the construction of a new large platform for launch, which will be located at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located on an island in the Indian Ocean in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the south of the country.
But long before NGLV becomes a reality, ISRO has a huge task ahead of it.: developing the manned version of its current LVM3 rocket – previously called GSLV III -, 43 meters high and weighing around 640 tons at launch. The project is delayed. It was supposed to be completed in 2022 to take off with an Indian crew, but COVID-19 and other issues prevented that.
So the maiden flight of the first Indian astronauts into space has been rescheduled for 2025, making India the fourth power to have full autonomy to send crews into outer space, after Russia, the US and China.. Initial work has already begun and four test flights of the manned Gaganyaan capsule are planned. The first, coded TV-D1, was conducted on October 21 to evaluate the astronauts’ emergency and escape system.
It is activated in the event that the launch vehicle, full of fuel, with the astronauts on board and located on the launch pad or in the first moments of the flight, presents a serious anomaly that could cause the vehicle to explode and endanger the lives of the crew. A rocket rod located on top of the Gaganyaan fires and pulls the astronauts out of the danger zone. In the test five days ago, there were no astronauts inside.
Narendra Modi has not forgotten the science part that comes with being a true space power. At the October 17 meeting, he requested a program for interplanetary missions. Specifically, one calendar “to send an orbit around Venus” and another to “land on Mars” a surface module that investigates the secrets hidden by the red planet.