India's human space flight mission is on schedule with a launch date of December 2021 and the first of two unmanned test flights taking off in December 2020, a top official told a Dubai space summit.
India will be sending its astronauts using its own spacecraft and launch vehicle. The selection process for the astronauts is ongoing, with 12 who have already been shortlisted and seven receiving training from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
"The objective is to make a habitable space capsule to carry three crew members to low earth orbit and return safely. There will be two unmanned flights before the main flight," Sreerekha said. "Our first unmanned flight will be in December 2020, the second one is July 2021 and the manned flight is December 2021. We have completed the pre-project activities and have already demonstrated some of the critical technologies. In 2007, we had a space capsule return experiment. It came back safely to the Bay of Bengal from orbit. In 2014, we tested the crew module orbit re-entry experiment and we recovered the capsule. This is a similar capsule we are planning to send into orbit with human beings."
ISRO is also increasing its international collaboration to make its human space flight mission a reality. It has signed an agreement with Russia to provide basic preliminary training to their astronauts. More agreements with other nations are in negotiations for specific training and technology-related matters.
ISRO will also be holding a major symposium on human spaceflight programme in January 2020, and has extended an invitation to the UAE astronauts, Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi, to share their experiences in this field.
So far, ISRO has completed 184 space-related missions, which include 78 launch vehicle missions and 106 satellite ones. It launched its second lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-2, earlier this year. Even though it failed to land, the orbiter is still operational and has enough fuel for the next seven years. "It is still giving us data," Sreerekha said.