India to conduct key test in crewed space mission on Oct 21

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India will conduct a key test in its ambitious space mission Gaganyaan on Oct. 21, launching an empty module into outer space and bringing it back to earth, deputy minister for science and technology Jitendra Singh said on Tuesday.

The final mission, expected to take place next year, is the first of its kind for the country and will cost about 90.23 billion Indian rupees ($1.08 billion). It will involve launching a human-habitable space capsule with a crew of three to an orbit of 400 km (250 miles) before bringing them safely back to land in Indian waters.

The word Gaganyaan in Hindi translates to sky craft.

The test this month will be conducted from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in southern India and will look at the efficacy of the crew escape system, which can be used to eject astronauts in emergencies.

It will be followed by another test flight carrying a robot to outer space before the final manned mission takes place, the minister said.

“Before the ultimate manned ‘Gaganyaan’ mission, there will be a test flight next year, which will carry Vyommitra, the female robot astronaut,” he said.

While an exact timeline has not been shared, the main mission is expected to be launched from the country’s main spaceport in Sriharikota before the end of 2024.

Singh was speaking at a program to commend Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists associated with the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which made India the first country to land on the south pole of the moon.

In September, the country’s space agency quickly followed up on this success by launching a rocket to study the sun – its first such solar mission.

($1 = 83.2066 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal, editing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios)