Gaganyaan: India to soon join elite club of countries capable of human spaceflight

After Russia, United States and China, India is set to become the 4th country capable of sending astronauts in outer space.

ISRO‘s Gaganyaan mission is planned to take place in December 2021 or the initial months of 2022.

“Gaganyaan” literally means Sky Craft.

Gaganyaan is modeled to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be provided with rendezvous and docking ability. In its maiden crewed mission, ISRO’s largely independent 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 kilometres altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board. The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO‘s GSLV Mk III in December 2021. This Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) developed crew module had its first un-crewed experimental flight on December 18, 2014. As of May 2019, design of the crew module has been completed Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will empower assistance for critical human-centric systems and technologies like space grade food, crew healthcare, radiation measurement and protection, parachutes for the safe recovery of the crew module and fire suppression system.


Mission Duration: 7 days

Launch Mass: 7,800 kg

Dry Mass: 3,735 kg

Crew Capacity: 3

Diameter: 3.5 m (11 ft)

Height: 3.58 m (11.7 ft)

Volume: 8 m3

Power: Photovoltaic array

Madhavan Chandradathan, director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), declared that ISRO would need to establish an astronaut training facility in Bangalore. Recently established Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) will coordinate the IHSF efforts. Existing launch facilities will be upgraded for launches under Indian Human Spaceflight project with extra installations required for launch escape systems. Russia is inclined to contribute to astronaut training, and support with some elements in the advancement of the launcher. In 2009, the full-scale mock-up of crew capsule of Gaganyaan was constructed and conveyed to Satish Dhawan Space Centre for training of astronauts.

India has already successfully created and reviewed several building blocks, including re-entry space capsule, pad abort test, safe crew ejection mechanism in case of rocket failure, flight suit developed by DEBEL and the powerful GSLV-MkIII launch vehicle. Having met all crucial technical keystones, the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme was accepted and formally confirmed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2018. Gaganyaan will be the first crewed spacecraft under this programme.

ISRO‘s Human Space Flight Centre and Glavcosmos, which is an associate of the Russian state corporation Roscosmos, signed a pact on July 1, 2019 for alliance in the selection, support, medical examination and space training of Indian astronauts. An ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) will be setup in Moscow to enable the expansion of some key technologies and installation of unique facilities which are necessary to support life in space.

On October 25, 2019, ISRO‘s Human Space Flight Centre and Glavcosmos signed an agreement to analyze the potential of using Russian life support systems and thermal control for Gaganyaan.

On January 22, 2020, ISRO declared Vyommitra, a female-looking robot who will chaperone other astronauts in the mission. It can recognize and give out warnings if environmental shifts within the cabin get uneasy to astronauts and change the air condition, it can also take up postures suited for launch and tasks and take commands.

According to ISRO, four astronauts have been shortlisted for Gaganyaan, and they have started their full-fledged training at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City.

Lasting one year, the training will integrate extensive and bio-medical practices with basic physical exercises. The aspirants shortlisted by ISRO will also get exposed to the manned Soyuz spacecraft’s systems, notified a statement by the Training Centre.

As part of the training, the astronauts are also required to practice operations during an emergency landing of a descent capsule in various climatic and geographic circumstances. They will have to attempt flights aboard an Il-76MDK plane built to simulate short-term zero gravity modes and other emergencies.


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