India’s state-run aerospace company has delivered the first domestically built astronaut transportation vehicle, marking an important milestone in the country’s plan to launch Indian citizens to space aboard a locally built spacecraft.
Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Crew Module Structoral Assembly was handed over to representatives of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Banglore last week.
“HAL takes pride in India’s space programmes and our Aerospace Division has produced this Crew Module in a record time to meet the requirements of ISRO”, said HAL’s chairman RK Tyagi.
After successfully launching an orbiter towards Mars, India has focused on its human space flight programme, aiming to become only the fourth country in the world to be able to independently put people in Earth orbit. After the USA and Russia, China became the third human space flight conqueror in 2003.
ISRO will fit the new Crew Module with further systems necessary for crew support, navigation, guidance and control before testing it during a sub-orbital flight. It is expected the module, without a crew aboard, could be flown to space as early as May 2014 during a test-flight of India’s new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III.
"Only re-entry technologies and flight dynamics will be tested and the capsule will be recovered 400-500 km away from Port Blair in the Bay of Bengal," said ISRO chairman K Radhakrishna.
ISRO has been pushing for state funding for its ambitious human space flight programme. The agency believes once it gets the government's consent, it would be able to launch first Indians to low Earth orbit in seven years.