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India’s maiden manned mission Gaganyaan likely to be delayed till 2023

India’s maiden human spaceflight, Gaganyaan’s launch has been further delayed due to COVID-19 impact. The much-awaited Gaganyaan mission, which will carry three crew members to low earth orbit, is not likely to be launched before 2023.

In a written statement to Lok Sabha, Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for Department of Space said, “First unmanned mission is planned in December 2021. Second unmanned flight is planned in 2022-23, followed by human space flight demonstration.”

Gaganyaan’s unmanned missions were slated for launch in December 2020 and July 2021, and the first manned mission was scheduled for December 2021. However, the unmanned mission got delayed due to COVID-19 led restrictions.

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The Gaganyaan project is aimed at demonstrating human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with three crew members in orbit and safely recovering them after the mission. Earlier in December, ISRO chief K Sivan had revealed that the Gaganyaan mission was being delayed because of COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the Union Minister, the preliminary design of Gaganyaan system has been completed and several MoUs and contracts have been signed for accelerating the mission.

He revealed that ISRO is working with seven DRDO labs for design and development of human centric products, and with academic institutes for the development of Microgravity payloads.

“As per COVID-19 protocols in Russia, and health advisories issued by local authorities, the Astronaut training in Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), Russia was halted for a period from 28th March, 2020 to 11th May, 2020. As per the revised COVID 19 protocols the training of Indian astronauts has henceforth resumed since 12th May, 2020,” he adds.

Apart from this, the union minister also revealed that qualification tests of liquid engines of the launch vehicle have commenced

The preliminary design review of the human centric systems such as space food, potable water, crew health monitoring system, emergency survival kit, crew medical kit among others has also been completed.

Apart from this, the Department of Space has released the draft “Humans in Space Policy for India, 2021” and guidelines, procedures for implementation of “Humans in Space Policy for India 2021” for public consultation and suggestions. People can submit their suggestions on draft till  February 28.

While COVID-19 led restrictions and impact has caused a delay in the mission timeline, success of the Gaganyaan project will make India the fourth country to have conducted human spaceflights after the US, Russia, and China.

Apart from Gaganyaan, ISRO is also working on Chandrayaan 3 mission and the proposed orbiter mission to Venus, “Shukrayaan.”

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