This year marks India's 'Gaganyaan' mission, its maiden human space flight, aiming to transport three astronauts 400km above Earth's surface

New Delhi: After a spectacular 2023 that saw the country land a spacecraft on the Moon and launch another to study the Sun, the Indian Space Research Organisation will carry out at least 12 launches this year, surpassing previous records, chairman S Somanath said on Monday.

“We are planning at least 12 missions for 2024. It may also go up depending on our ability to produce the hardware and complete testing,” Somanath said at a media briefing after the successful launch of India’s first polarimetry mission, the X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite, a space observatory that will study black holes and other celestial objects.

In 2023, the space agency conducted a record seven missions, including the landing of Chandrayaan-3 close to the lunar south pole, and the launch of India’s first sun observatory, the Aditya-L1, which is expected to reach its destination, Lagrange Point 1, on January 6. Besides the launches, the space agency also conducted key technology demonstrations that pave the way for future missions for the Gaganyaan spacecraft and a reusable launch vehicle.

This year will be the “year for Gaganyaan”, Somanath said. “2024 is going to be a year to prepare for Gaganyaan. We are targeting the launch for 2025, but this year we will be conducting at least two more rounds of tests before gearing up for the final mission,” he said.

The Gaganyaan, India’s first human space flight mission, will carry a crew of three astronauts to an orbit 400km above the earth’s surface for a three-day mission and bring them back safely. After a TV-D1 test flight demonstration in October, the agency will carry out a test flight with a humanoid robot, dubbed Vyomitra, and an unmanned flight before manned Gaganyaan mission, possibly scheduled for 2025.

The prerequisites for Gaganyaan mission include development of many critical technologies, including a human-rated launch vehicle for carrying crew safely to space and back, life support systems to provide an Earth-like environment, and an emergency escape system.

On February 7 last year, ISRO with the Indian Navy carried out recovery trials of the crew module in Kochi. The trials were part of preparations for crew module recovery operations for the Gaganyaan mission. ISRO also tested the Gaganyaan service module propulsion system on July 19 at its propulsion complex in Odisha. On October 21, ISRO also conducted the first developmental flight of test vehicle (TV-D1) with the in-flight abort demonstration of the crew escape system (CES).