The Gaganyaan mission, which was planned to launch three Indian astronauts to space this year, is delayed. ISRO will conduct two abort missions for crew safety this year

Gaganyaan mission delayed beyond 2022, ISRO to conduct two 'abort missions' in September, December. The spacecraft will be launched to an altitude of 15 kilometers during which ISRO will simulate an abort scenario

New Delhi: The Indian Space & Research Organisation (ISRO) has said that to ensure crew safety during the Gaganyaan mission, it will conduct two unmanned abort missions. S. Somnath, chairman of the Indian space agency said that ISRO will conduct the abort missions in September and December.

The latest statement clears the air around the further delay of India's maiden astronaut mission to space. Reports have already indicated that the mission is likely facing another two years of delay as ISRO focuses on perfecting the system that will launch and land Indians on missions to space.

Gaganyaan was planned to be launched this year to mark India's 75th year of independence. However, it faced several setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the successive lockdowns.

"Our first priority is human safety. So, we are now focusing on abort missions — that is simulating failures and bringing the crew back safely under those circumstances. The first Test Vehicle for this purpose is ready and we will launch it in September this year," Somnath said.

During the test mission, the spacecraft will be launched to an altitude of 15 kilometers during which ISRO will simulate an abort scenario after which the crew capsule will return to Earth under parachutes. During the second simulation, ISRO will launch the Gaganyaan crew capsule to a higher altitude and undergo a similar abort scenario to perfect the system.

“We are intentionally delaying the manned mission as this is a very dangerous mission. If this is not successful, then the entire project may even have to be closed down. So, we have to be extremely accurate and absolutely sure. An unsuccessful mission will have a very bad impact on the system as well as on ISRO," the Secretary, Department of Space said.

Somnath's comments come days after the space agency successfully conducted a static fire test of the boosters that will power Gaganyaan. The solid rocket booster HS-200 was fired at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The rocket will form the first stage of the launch vehicle.

The HS-200 booster loaded with 203 tons of solid propellant was tested for a duration of 135 seconds. The 20 m long and 3.2 m diameter booster is the world’s second-largest operational booster with solid propellant.