India outlines new schedule for lunar and manned missions

According to press statements by India’s Minister for Science & Technology, Jitendra Singh, the schedule for that country’s next unmanned lunar lander/rover and its first manned missions have now been firmed up.

First, Singh announced that the lunar lander/rover, Chandrayaan-3, is now aiming for a launch to the Moon in the second quarter of ’22. The mission is essentially a rebuild of Chandrayaan-2, which got within a few hundred feet of the lunar surface before losing control and crashing in 2019. Chandrayaan-3 had initially been scheduled for launch in late 2020, but the COVID panic essentially shut down India’s entire space industry in both ’20 and ’21.

Second, Singh announced that India’s manned orbital Gaganyaan mission is now scheduled for launch in ’23.

Jitendra Singh said that the major missions like Test vehicle flight for the validation of Crew Escape System performance and the 1st uncrewed mission of Gaganyaan (G1) are scheduled during the beginning of the second half of 2022. This will be followed by a second uncrewed mission at the end of 2022 carrying “Vyommitra” a spacefaring human robot developed by ISRO and finally the first crewed Gaganyaan mission in 2023.

Like Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaan was delayed significantly by the panic in India over COVID. It was originally scheduled for launch in December ’21, but the panic caused all work to stop for most of ’20 and ’21. During that time period India’s planned annual launch pace of 6 or more launches per year shrank to a mere three launches over two years, with little sign yet that ISRO is ready to resume launches.

Hopefully, these announcements are a signal that India will fully return to flight in ’22. Stay tuned.