Plans to use GSLV instead of PSLV for the project.
Even as it gets set for its first unmanned mission to the moon on October 22, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is busy making preparations for a manned mission to the moon in 2014. The proposed budget for the manned mission is around Rs 1,000 crore.
Isro is planning to use Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for the manned mission as Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is not capable of launching a load of over 1,500 kg. Even as the proposal is pending clearance, Isro is in the process of identifying the team for the mission. “Our chairman is very keen on the project getting approval. He has asked us to come out with complete proposals internally,” said MC Dathan, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota Range.
On the proposal, he said a commission had done a preliminary study and the report had been submitted for approval of the Space Commission. “The commission has cleared the proposal and it has been submitted to the government. A high-powered committee is studying the report. It is expected to be cleared in about two months,” he added.
On training the crew, Dathan said, “The Indian Air Force has the capability. But we plan to develop a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore.”
Isro, which has two launch pads, is planning to build another for the manned mission. It will have facilities for entry into the human lunar space capsule and an escape chute for the crew if anything goes wrong.
Dathan said Isro had the technical knowhow for the launch pad. “We will have the help of Indian industry. Since the capabilities of Indian industry have reached a high-enough level, it will only need some hand-holding if we provide them the preliminary design. The project can be completed without outside help,” he said. The first launch pad is 25 years old and the second one was put into service in 2005. The launch pad for the manned mission will take three-four years to be built and the two main things it will have are the escape chute whenever there is a problem and another escape from the capsule. The launch pad will, hence, require extra facilities.
Meanwhile, the launch time for Chandrayaan-I, the unmanned mission, has been finalised. The vehicle is expected to be launched between 6.20 am and 6.35 am on October 22. The countdown will begin 51 hours before the launch. The date and time of the launch has been finalised based on weather conditions and the inclination of the moon towards the Earth. “So far the weather has been good. The launch vehicle has been made rain-proof. Unless a major depression or a cyclone happens, the launch will take place as scheduled,” said MYS Prasad. associate director, SDSC SHAR.
The four-stage launch vehicle, which uses both solid and liquid propellant, has been fully integrated and the integration of the satellite with the launch vehicle will start soon, according to Isro officials. It will take 16 hours for the lunar spacecraft to enter the moon’s orbit.
A launch authorisation board, chaired by Dathan, is at the helm of affairs of the launch. The board, in turn, reports to Isro Chairman G Madhavan Nair. Interestingly, Isro has not insured the mission. “Generally we don’t insure indigenous missions. Normally, we insure communication satellites which involve so many other people with commercial interests,” said Prasad.