After a string of delays, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hopes to demonstrate the capabilities of its Gaganyaan mission by the end of 2023 before continuing India’s first manned space mission in late 2024 or early 2025, the ISRO Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) Director R Umamaheshwaran said on Thursday, October 27.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will start a series of test flights for India's maiden human space flight mission from February next year, a senior official said here on Thursday.

Umamaheshwaran said four candidates have been shortlisted, who have completed initial training and are currently undergoing further training at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru.

The HSFC director said the launch vehicle to take the astronauts to the 400 km mark is almost ready, and all tests have been completed.

“Regarding the crew capsule, where humans are supposed to sit and fly, the design is done. It is currently in the application phase. In three to six months, it will be ready,” he said.

Currently, HSFC is developing an environmental control system to provide environmental conditions for astronauts’ survival. Umamaheshwaran added that around 16-17 tests will have to be carried out before unmanned test flights can take place by the end of 2023. One of the tests will examine how the launch vehicle’s escape system works.

“The test vehicle is a modified liquid phase of the GSLV and will ascend to an altitude of 15-20 km. Then at different altitudes, we will generate a breakdown and test whether the crew escape system is working,” he added. The Gaganyaan program was conceived in 2007 but was delayed for several reasons, from technology (such as research into crew escape system technology) to setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Umamaheshwaran also said that discussions are underway to launch the Indian Space Station by 2030-35. To facilitate the launch, ISRO is currently developing a new vehicle called the NGLV or Next Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV), which he expects to be ready by 2030.