The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is eyeing a mid-July launch for its lunar mission, Chandrayaan 3, while keeping an August window open for Aditya L1, India’s first dedicated scientific mission to study the sun.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath said on Thursday that critical testing for India’s human spaceflight program, Gaganyaan, was also on, placing the mission for a tentative launch in 2024 or 2025.

The checking of Chandrayaan’s propulsion and lander modules, and its rover, is currently on at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. After the initial preparations, they will be integrated into the Launch Vehicle Mark 3.

“The final integration of the rocket will happen by the end of this month,” Somanath told reporters.

While ISRO has set an August launch for Aditya L1, missing the window could delay the launch till January 2024.

The mission was originally scheduled for launch in June-July.

Somanath said the agency was not “rushing” Gaganyaan and has enhanced testing to ensure success in the first attempt.

“That involves additional abort missions; two of them will be completed this year followed by an unmanned mission, possibly by the beginning of the next year,” Somanath said.

If all the eight critical tests are done without glitches, the mission could be launched in a 2024-25 time-frame, he said.

Next-Gen Launcher

ISRO is also developing the architecture for a partially reusable Next Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV).

A team working on the NGLV has compiled a preliminary report detailing the technologies and operational components.

“NSIL (NewSpace India Limited, ISRO’s commercial arm) will engage with the private industry on the project, the funding for which can be done by ISRO and the industry. The rocket will be offered as a commercial launcher for government and private use. Its development may take 5 to 10 years. The advantage is that we have all the facilities necessary to develop it right away, at ISRO,” he said.

Mission Operations In Focus

Industry participation in niche disciplines under spacecraft mission operations is in focus at a two-day conference hosted by ISRO. Spacecraft Mission Operations (SMOPS-2023) is designed as an interface between domain experts and private industry.

“Startups develop launch vehicles and satellites but 80 per cent of the money in the space economy is in the downstream work, in services that include development of equipment for ground operations and communication,” ISRO Chairman S Somanath said.

With policy reforms bringing more private players to the space sector, there is a need to hand-hold these companies to develop capabilities in ground operations. Up to 25,000 satellites could be orbiting the earth by 2030, making the role of mission planning more critical, Pawan Kumar Goenka, Chairman, IN-SPACe, said. “These are skills that cannot be acquired from textbooks but only from people who have done it,” he said.