India Space Missions: Plans for 10 trips in 2016

India’s premier space research organization ISRO shot into limelight after the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission. It is now looking at another launch to mars, followed by missions to Venus and even an asteroid. In order to create a roadmap for the future, ISRO will be charting out projects focusing on specific missions and decide their further course of action. As of now, they aim to reach a target of at least ten launches in 2016. India, after its success in both cost effective and scientific domains of space travels, is looking at partnerships with stalwarts in the field- USA and UK being the forerunners.

India is looking at building vehicles to support manned missions to outer space. Initially, a budget of Rs. 12.4 billion was sanctioned for this crew vehicle. The government allotted Rs. 95 crores for the preliminary research and data gathering once the mission was approved. However, after two successive failures, ISRO dropped the idea and instead focused on capability building. The Human Space Flight Program although, is still not defunct. Under a pilot program, this idea has been rekindled and ISRO is trying to reach solutions for three of the most major challenges they faced the previous times- ECLS (Environment control and life support) system, crew escape system and flight suite.

Manned space missions require strong launch vessels, which are yet to be built by India. Some predictions delay this dream of a manned mission by a decade due to technological reasons. India is modeling her Spaceflight mission based on Russia’s model- the Soyuz. The modified version of Soyuz is hypothesized to have the capacity to carry humans into outer space with launchers that are available in India. The capsule is being designed to last for as long as a seven day mission, following which it would fall back into the atmosphere, and ultimately splash into the Arabian sea or Bay of Bengal. According to the latest illustrations revealed by ISRO, it seems appropriate to assume that the India organization has settled on a two-man Crew Module. If one compares the previously released drawings to the more recent ones, the evolution in the concept and ideas is evident, while the basic structure has remained the same, albeit increased in size.

With a stronger launcher such as the GSLV Mk-III, it might even be possible to send three astronauts into a 270 to 400 km orbit. But, for now, ISRO is leaning towards the slightly less powerful GLSV launcher that is capable of placing 8 tones into Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

India plans to start her own astronaut training center in the outskirts of Bangalore, which will feature state of the art facilities such as a centrifuge and a swimming pool where trainees will wear zero-buoyancy suites to simulate the weightless of space. The Mission Control Center and pre-project developments are as critical to this project as any other requirement. ISRO officials state that they are currently in the unmanned phase of vehicle development which is, according to them, the most important and difficult part of a manned space mission. Once they resolve all the glitches, they will go into the next phase of the project.

In order to realize their other dream of reaching the target of ten launches per year, ISRO needs to make full use of the estimated allocation of Rs 6000- 7000 crore. In the next fiscal year, there are already four scheduled launches of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. There is even talk of building a third launch pad at Sri Harikotta.

With a definite shift in gears, India is looking to delve into heavier equipment and more challenging launches. There is talk of launching one or two commercial PSLV launches, which would be meant for use by foreign satellites only. This means that India is becoming a force to reckon with in global terms. Last year is considered to be a good one in all domains of space research and travel, but ISRO is determined to make this year count in terms of more powerful launches.

In order to do this, there are some non-technical challenges that ISRO will have to overcome. With the government not cooperating to increase manpower on-ground, the space research organization is looking at possible outsourcing solutions to reach their goal on time and within budget. They are also focusing on the Re-usable launch vehicle, scheduled for a launch in October this year.

With Japan joining the race for scientific missions to planets other than Mars, India is not going down without a fight. Venus is similar to our planet in many ways, but it poses several challenge which have already stumped a few countries more advanced in space research than India, but as history has been witness, that has never failed to stop them from realizing their goal. 2016 is going to be an interesting an eventful year for India in terms of Space travel and Research. Keeping their eyes skyward and brains ticking, they wish ISRO a triumph yet again, in placing India’s name firmly adhered to the atlas of space travel’s success stories.