In 2024, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is taking on one of its biggest challenges yet with the Gaganyaan mission. This mission, worth Rs 9,000 crore, is India’s first attempt to send its own astronauts into space using a rocket made in India. The goal is to launch three astronauts about 400 km above the Earth and bring them back safely after three days.
Last year, ISRO completed a successful test flight (TV-D01) which showed that they could safely bring back the part of the spacecraft where the astronauts stay called the crew module. This test was important because it checked whether the spacecraft could safely land in the sea after its journey. They also tested an emergency escape system that would save the astronauts if the rocket had problems when it was just 15-17 km high. There are plans for four such test flights to make sure everything is safe for the astronauts. After these tests, ISRO will send two missions into space without people on board.
ISRO’s Chairman S Somanath, announced that 2024 is crucial for getting Gaganyaan ready. The mission is planned for launch in 2025. This year, they expect to do two more test flights and one unmanned mission along with many other important tests and experiments. The first unmanned flight is expected later this year followed by another one early next year. Besides Gaganyaan, ISRO has many other important missions lined up for 2024. These include satellite launches and tests of different spacecraft.
Following the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, ISRO is also working to make space launches cheaper. The government is encouraging private companies to develop their own space transportation systems and launch facilities. For example, a company called Skyroot Aerospace launched a sub-orbital vehicle named ‘Vikram-S’ in 2022. Another company Agnikula Cosmos is preparing for its sub-orbital launch and is setting up a private launchpad and mission control center at the ISRO campus.
There’s a lot of activity in India’s space sector with over 523 space start-ups and companies showing what they can do. Out of these 297 have asked ISRO for support in research and testing. In the past ten years India has launched 396 satellites for other countries and 70 of its own earning significant revenue. The space industry is expected to grow by 6-8% in the coming years.
Last year, India also introduced the Indian Space Policy 2023. This policy is designed to let private companies participate in all areas of space activities. This move shows how the space sector in India is not just about ISRO anymore; it’s also about private companies and start-ups playing a big role in space exploration and technology.