India plans first manned space mission for Q4 2024 • The Register

India has named the fourth quarter of 2024 as the likely date for the country’s first manned space mission.

Only three nations – the USSR/Russia, the USA and China – have launched manned missions.

India’s Minister for Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh, announced the target for 2024 in a reply yesterday [PDF] to a question asked in the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament.

Singh detailed a planned mission called “G1” that will launch in the last quarter of 2023 and “carry a humanoid payload.” G1 will test the orbital module propulsion systems, mission management, communications systems, salvage operations and crew escape system. Parachutists are also trained.

G2, scheduled for Q2 2024, will do more of the same.

H1, the manned flight, will follow in the fourth quarter.

Singh said astronaut training was ongoing but did not comment on whether the crew was chosen to fill the three available spots. The minister said the training will take place in the Indian city of Bengaluru, a change from previous rounds of training in Russia.

India launched and recovered a dummy crew capsule back in 2014 and appears to still be using the technology developed for this test.

The minister’s response resets a program previously aimed at testing starts from 2021 but has been delayed by safety concerns and COVID-19 complications.

The mission plan for deploying India’s homebuilt GSLV MkIII Heavy Lift Booster remains unchanged, while no new flight plan has been proposed to trump the previously planned seven-day orbital adventure.

India’s space program is notoriously economical: its Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter operated on a budget of just $74 million (in 2013 dollars). The budgets for Gaganyaan exceed the billion dollar mark.

Singh had a busy day yesterday as he also briefed the Lok Sabha on India’s plans to send a submersible 6,000 meters below the waves “to explore deep sea resources such as minerals”.

The minister cited “nickel, cobalt, rare earths, manganese, etc.” as the types of things the mission will be looking for. A quick reminder: Rare earths are essential for manufacturing electronics, and China dominates global supply. India is therefore making considerable efforts and great efforts to find alternative sources.

Singh said the mission, dubbed Samudrayaan, will also carry a crew of three and descend deep by the year 2026. ® India plans first manned space mission for Q4 2024 • The Register

Rick Schindler

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