Dr Umamaheswaran R, Director, Human Space Flight Centre, ISRO, & Dr S Somnath,  ISRO, look at a model of GSLV MK-III rocket displayed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bangalore

The spacecraft would have a separate crew escape system that had been tested back in 2018

The first test-vehicle mission of Gaganyaan, India's manned space mission, will start in a couple of months, said R Umamaheswaran, Director of ISRO's Human Space Flight Centre. This to check whether the crew can escape if required, whether landing can be done safely by parachute and the crew retrieved, etc., he said. He was speaking at the Bangalore Space Expo at BIEC on Tuesday.

The spacecraft would have a separate crew escape system that had been tested back in 2018. "But there are many things that can go wrong during ascent, so we have to test for different scenarios now. Since this is a manned mission, reliability is important, so we will have a series of test-vehicle missions," he said.

"Though Prime Minister Modi had announced Gaganyaan in 2018, the foundation for it had started back in 2003-04," said Umamaheswaran. He said they have overcome the technical challenges with the launch vehicle already, but many components of the spacecraft are still being readied. For example, the design and development of the crew module is yet to be finalised. "We are planning for launch towards the end of 2023." He said the project was delayed due to Covid; its original deadline was August 2022.

"This is not an ISRO project alone. Around 75 per cent of the development is done with the support of industries. Armed forces, research labs and academia are also involved. We also have strong collaborations with Europe, Russia, NASA, etc," he said.

Indian and foreign organisations that are supporting the mission spoke at the session.