On May 13, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested the HS200 solid rocket booster, which is a key component of the Gaganyaan manned space mission. This rocket booster will be utilised to launch the Gaganyaan mission’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III).
According to an ISRO statement, the successful completion of the test marks a critical milestone for the human space travel project because the first stage of the launch vehicle was tested for its performance for the entire time. This year’s ISRO missions include Gaganyaan (manned space flight), Aditya L-1 (solar research), and soft-landing on the moon (Chandrayaan-3).
Apart from these three missions, ISRO plans to launch other local and international satellites throughout the year. In 2022, the ISRO will launch three significant missions:
Gaganyaan, India’s crewed space project, is set to launch unmanned flights in the second half of 2022. ISRO’s capabilities for human spaceflight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and safe return to Earth will be shown through this programme. According to the Centre, Gaganyaan consists of two unmanned missions and one human mission. The manned mission might take up to seven days to complete.
The mission will also establish the groundwork for India’s long-term human spaceflight programme. After the United States, Russia, and China, India hopes to become the fourth nation to send humans to space with its manned space mission in 2023. After Gaganyaan is completed, India plans to build its own space station to perform research in basic, applied, and engineering sciences.
In answer to a Parliamentary question, the Hub said that a new astronaut training centre has been built at ISRO’s nerve centre in Bengaluru, the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC). The astronauts who have been chosen for the trip are presently undergoing training. Additionally, crew recovery rehearsals and specific operational needs for nominal missions have been completed.
Design concepts for microgravity experiments are being considered. ISRO has developed new technology for the Gaganyaan mission, including a human-rated launch vehicle, crew escape systems, a habitable orbital module, and a life support system. All systems and subsystems have been designed, and the implementation of each system is at various degrees of completion. The integration facility for the orbital module is nearly finished.
ISRO completed a long-duration certification test for the human-rated cryogenic engine and the first phase testing of the Vikas Engine for the human-rated Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk-III) vehicle’s core L110 liquid stage in August 2021. The mission’s engine certification requirements were successfully completed with the conclusion of this test.
Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos, and the French government’s National Centre for Space Studies have also contributed to the mission (CNES.) The total cost of the Gaganyaan project is projected to be around Rs 9,023 crores.
Apart from ISRO, the project involves the Indian Armed Forces, the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard, the Shipping Corporation of India, the National Institute of Oceanography, the National Institute of Ocean Technology, the Indian Meteorological Department, CSIR Labs, and a number of academic and industry partners. Gaganyaan’s unmanned flight was supposed to take place in 2021, but COVID-19 put it back to 2022.
India’s first mission to study the Sun, Aditya L-1 seeks to install a 400kg satellite in halo orbit around the Sun-Earth system’s Lagrangian point 1 (L1) to view the sun continually without eclipses. While only one payload was originally planned — the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) — the satellite is now expected to carry six payloads to the halo orbit around L1, which is 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.
The Aditya L-1 has the following payloads: VELC (Visible Emission Line Coronagraph): VELC, developed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), will image and investigate the magnetic field and other properties of the solar corona, which extends thousands of kilometres above the disc (photosphere). SUIT: Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope: The SUIT, developed by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), will image the solar photosphere and chromosphere spatially resolved in the ultraviolet (200-400 nm) range. It will also track the differences in solar irradiance.
The Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) designed and produced the Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX), which will research solar wind physics, dispersion, and spectral features. PAPA (Plasma Analyzer Package for Aditya): Developed together by the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) and the VSSC, the PAPA will examine the composition and energy distribution of solar wind.
The Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS) was developed by the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) to study the sun’s heating mechanism by monitoring X-ray flares in the corona. The High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS) is a collaboration between ISAC, the Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO), and PRL that will monitor dynamic events in the solar corona and estimate the energy used to accelerate particles during eruptive events like flares and coronal mass ejections.
Magnetometer: The magnetometer, built jointly by ISAC and the Laboratory for Electro-optic Systems (LEOS), will study the magnitude and characteristics of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field, which emanates from the solar corona and spans the solar system. This mission, which was supposed to launch in 2019-2020, has now been pushed back to 2022.
After Chandrayaan-2’s hard landing on the lunar surface in 2019, ISRO plans to launch Chandrayaan-3 in an attempt to’soft land’ on the moon. Special testing of numerous hardware components has been successfully completed, according to the Centre, based on Chandrayaan-2 learnings and suggestions from a national level committee.
Chandrayaan-3 is expected to launch in August 2022. The Vikram Lander and Pragyan rover were successfully launched by Chandrayaan-2’s rocket on July 22, 2019. On September 7, 2019, the lander was supposed to’soft-land’ (i.e. land intact on the lunar surface without crashing) near the lunar south pole, 71 degrees south of the equator and 22.8 degrees east.
The hatch was set to open two hours after landing, lowering the ramp and allowing the rover to roll out. The solar-powered six-wheeled rover was meant to explore the south lunar surface 500 metres at a period and report its findings to the lander, which would be in contact with the orbiting satellite (Chandrayaan-1).
However, during the ‘pipe breaking phase,’ on September 7, 2019, after the Vikram Lander began its landing sequence, there was a significant variation in altitude and velocity. While the lander descended smoothly from 30 kilometres to 2 kilometres, it lost contact with ISRO’s Deep Space Antenna and landed forcefully on the moon’s surface. NASA discovered the crashed lander with the rover inside on December 3, 2019.
In 2022, there will be more satellite launches
While the three missions stated above are important ISRO projects for 2022, the space agency has other satellite launches planned for this year. Two Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) missions, one commercial and one for launching the EOS-06 earth observation satellite; two Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) developmental flights; and one Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) mission for launching the NVS-01 navigation satellite are among them.
ISRO has also scheduled two commercial missions: one communication satellite (GSAT-24) and one Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – Mark III (GSLV Mk-III).