A humanoid robot will be ISRO’s first ‘Astronaut’ in December 2020, preparatory to the agency’s planned 2021 launch of the Gaganyaan mission that will see ISRO put three Indians in space for the first time.

Among the other landmark launches planned for 2020 are Aditya-L1, a 400-kg solar mission that will study the Sun’s layers, the particle flux emanating from it, and magnetic field variations. That launch has been scheduled for mid-2020.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan recently told media that 10 satellite missions have also been planned next year, including communication satellites Gisat1 and Gisat-12R, and Earth observation satellites Risat-2-BR2 and Microsat for surveillance.

Some of the first big launches of next year will be the test-flight of a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) and Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). While RLV technology will allow ISRO to cut costs by possibly reusing stage 1 and 2 of the rockets it builds, SSLV (or mini PSLV, as Sivan referred to it) will be a smaller, 110-tonne version of the larger PSLV and will enable ISRO to put smaller payloads of up to 500 kg into low earth orbit.

Towards the middle of 2020, Aditya L-1 will make history by becoming India’s first Sun observation mission. The satellite will ride a PSLV rocket and will eventually go into solar orbit at a distance of 1.5 million km from Earth.

And as 2020 draws to an end, ISRO will launch its first test-flight of the 2021 Gaganyaan human mission. According to details provided to TOI, a modified GSLV-MK-III rocket will carry a ‘humanoid robot’ into space, allowing scientists to study the conditions and perform various activities. That will be followed by yet another test flight in July 2021. And December 2021 will see the Rs 10,000 crore mission officially start with the launch of three human astronauts, who will perform experiments in space for up to a week.