New Delhi: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the launch of India's unmanned space mission under Gaganyaan, planned for December 2020 is likely to be delayed, sources said. The unmanned mission was one of the two unmanned missions to be conducted by the Indian Space Research Organization prior to the scheduled launch in December 2021 of India's maiden human spaceflight under 'Gaganyaan'. The ISRO had started planning accordingly for the mission. The first and second unmanned missions were scheduled for December 2020 and June 2021 respectively.
Recently, the likely delay in the first unmanned mission was conveyed to the Space Commission, the highest policy making body on space-related issues. The Space Commission is headed by ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary K Sivan. Two years earlier, in his address to Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the human space mission.
The aim of the Gaganyaan mission is to send a three-member crew into space for a five to seven-day duration by 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence.
The final and main part, Gaganyaan's manned mission, was scheduled in December 2021, well ahead of the 2022 deadline. ISRO had previously indicated that many missions would be postponed as the space body's work has been hit by disturbances due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We will not be in a position to reach the deadline for the unmanned mission launch in December 2020. The pandemic coronavirus has contributed to many disruptions. This was also conveyed to the Space Commission recently," a source said.
The sources added that ISRO staff members were infected. Only the research related work is on and also the associated industry was affected, too. The pandemic has affected even the training of four astronauts in Russia. However, the training has now resumed.
The spacecraft will be placed within 300-400 kilometers of earth's low orbit. It is estimated that the overall program cost will be less than Rs. 10,000 crores.
In June, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office asserted that, "Even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the training of four Indian astronauts in Russia. There is a "cushion" gap in both the training program and the start-up deadline."