Two unmanned missions will precede India’s first manned mission to space, Gaganyaan, which will take three astronauts for five to seven days, the Indian Space Research Organisation said on Tuesday. Union minister Jitendra Singh said the first unmanned flight of the programme is likely within 30 months, according to IANS.

The three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle, GSLV Mk III, will be used to launch Gaganyaan, Singh said. “The total programme is expected to be completed before 2022 with the first unmanned flight within 30 months,” he said. “The mission will aim to send a three-person crew to space for a period of seven days. The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km. The programme is expected to cost less than Rs 10,000 crore.”

In his Independence Day speech on August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India will launch a manned mission to space by 2022 and become the fourth nation to do so after Russia, the United States and China.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, K Sivan, the chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said work on developing technology to send humans to space had started in 2004 but the project was not on the “priority list” then, PTI reported. Jitendra Singh, the minister of state for Department of Space, said the decision to take the project forward was more of a political decision.

“We had planned it and we were waiting for the prime minister to make an announcement...[since] it is a very significant announcement,” Singh said.

The government also said it will launch Chandrayaan-II, which will land near the South Pole of the moon, between January 3, 2019 and February 16, 2019.