Indian human spaceflight programme

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The Indian human spaceflight programme is a proposal by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to develop and launch the ISRO Orbital Vehicle, which is to carry a two-member crew to Low Earth Orbit. Recent reports indicate that human spaceflight will occur after 2017, on a GSLV-Mk III, as the mission is not included in the government's 12th five-year plan (2012–2017).[1] Since the ISRO does not have a human-rated launch vehicle or the budget from the government to undertake such a flight, it will not happen this decade.[1][2]

'India's First Manned Space Mission' is being planned in 2021 by Indian Space Research Organisation.[3][4][5] Dr K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, ISRO told this in an interview to NDTV.[6]


On 9 August 2007 the then Chairman of the ISRO, G. Madhavan Nair, indicated the agency is "seriously considering" a human spaceflight mission. He further indicated that within a year ISRO would report on its development of new space capsule technologies.[7]

Development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew into a low-Earth orbit (LEO) has already begun. ISRO sources said the flight is likely to be in 2016. Government had allocated INR950 million (US$14.9 million) for pre-project initiatives for 2007 through 2008. A manned mission into space would require about INR124 billion (US$1.9 billion) and a period of seven years. Planning Commission estimates that a budget of INR50 billion (US$785.0 million) is required for initial work on the manned mission during the eleventh five-year plan (2007–12). A project report prepared by ISRO has been cleared by space commission.[8][9] In February 2009 the Government of India gave the green light for the manned space flight programme, due to launch in 2016.[10]

MC Dathan, director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) stated that ISRO will set up a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore for training astronauts. ISRO is planning to build a third launch pad at Sriharkota for manned missions with extra facilities like entry into the crew capsule and an escape chute.[9]

The trials for the manned space missions began with the 600 kg Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, and safely returned to earth 12 days later. This demonstrates India's capability to develop heat-resistant materials necessary for re-entry technology.

In 1984, Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian citizen to go into space, flying aboard a Soviet mission. Sharma was one of the people who endorsed the 2006 proposal for an Indian manned space programme.

Description and development[edit]

Main article: ISRO Orbital Vehicle
Model of the ISRO Orbital Vehicle

The major objective of manned mission programme is to develop the fully autonomous three-ton ISRO Orbital Vehicle spaceship to carry a 2-member crew to orbit and safe return to the Earth after a mission duration of few orbits to two days. The extendable version of the spaceship will allow flights up to seven days, rendezvous and docking capability with space stations or orbital platform.

ISRO plans to use for OV spaceship the GSLV-Mk II launcher (Mark two is Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-II launcher with an indigenous cryogenic engine). About 16 minutes after lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota, the rocket will inject the OV into an orbit, 300 km-400 km from the Earth. The capsule would return for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will set up an astronaut training centre in Bangalore by 2012, to prepare personnel both for first orbital flights oboard an Orbital Vehicle (OV) and for future manned Moon missions which will land Indians on the Earth's natural satellite after 2020[citation needed].

Disclosing this to mediapersons, ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said: "We zeroed in on Bangalore after identifying several favourable aspects. We have an aviation medicine institute in the city which will significantly contribute for the astronaut training."

A site of 140 acres (0.57 km2) beyond the greenfield Bengaluru International Airport has been identified. The INR10 billion (US$157.0 million) centre will train the selected astronauts in rescue and recovery operations, surviving in a zero gravity situation, study of radiation environment and for the long journey in the space through water simulation.

India would receive assistance in crew selection and training from Russia under an agreement signed between the two countries in March 2008. One option which was studied was a flight of an Indian astronaut aboard a Soyuz capsule in preparation for the Indian mission. However, in October 2010 this option was given up.[11]

ISRO will build centrifuges to train the astronauts on the high-gravity acceleration which occur when the vehicle lifts off. It also plans to build a new launch pad at a cost of INR6 billion (US$94.2 million) as it proposed to undertake a manned space mission by 2016. It would be the third launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the east-coast in Andhra Pradesh, some 100 km north of Chennai.

In spring 2009 the full scale mock-up of crew capsule of OV was built and delivered to Satish Dhawan Space Centre for training of vyomanauts. India will be short listing 200 IAF pilots for this purpose. ISRO is currently framing the criteria to short list the fighter pilots. The selection process would begin by the candidates having to solve a ISRO questionnaire, after which they would be subjected to physical examinations like cardiac, dental, neurological, ophthalmologic, psychological, radiographic and ENT. They will also have to undergo several lab tests at Indian Aerospace Medicine in Bangalore. Only 4 of the 200 will be finally selected for the first space mission training. While two will fly, two shall act as reserve. The commencement of selection process of final four awaits government's approval.[12][13]

Cooperation with Russia[edit]

India and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on joint activities in the field of human spaceflight programme during the visit of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to India in December 2008.

According to the accord, an Indian cosmonaut will once again be part of a space mission on board a Russian spacecraft. This mission, tentatively scheduled for 2013, will precede a planned Indian manned spaceflight in 2016. This plan was abandoned later in 2010[11]

"As per the agreement, an Indian astronaut will first go on a space mission on a Russian spacecraft. This will be followed by an Indian manned mission to space in 2015," Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair said.

Under the MoU signed by G. Madhavan Nair and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Perminov, ISRO and Russian space agency Roskosmos have revealed that they will jointly build the spacecraft for the Indian manned mission.

"We will be redesigning the Soyuz space capsule of the Russian agency for our mission," Nair said.

ISRO has already been sanctioned INR950 million (US$14.9 million) to study all aspects of the manned space mission, which will involve a two-member Indian crew spending a week in space. The spacecraft, to be placed in a low earth orbit, will splashdown in the Indian Ocean after completion of the mission.

ISRO has already announced the setting up of an astronaut training centre in Bangalore. It has now said that a batch of 200 would be initially selected before four are finally shortlisted, of these two would go on the mission.

In 2010 Russia announced that India no longer planned to do a Soyuz mission.[11]


The term Aakashagami (meaning 'sky traveller'), is a literary word in Sanskrit, similar to the word 'astronaut'. 'Brahmāndagami'(Brahmānda- space and Gami-traveller) is another Sanskrit word literally meaning 'space traveller'. However, the designation Gaganaut, derived from gagana (meaning 'the heavens' or 'vast sky above us'), has become popular amongst the Indian space community as a term for Indian astronauts. The term Antariksha yaatri has been suggested as a more proper name (antariksha signifies space beyond our Earth and yaatri means 'traveller'), and this is the name used in official documents, as well as the Indian media. Other suggestions include vishvanaut (vishva- world, this reality) and brahmanaut (brahmand- universe). Having considered several terms, Vyomanaut has been finalised by ISRO. The term Vyomanaut stands for Vyoma which means space or sky in Sanskrit.


  1. ^ a b "India not to undertake human space flight before 2017: ISRO". The Economic Times. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Cities". Deccan Chronicle. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "India's First Manned Space Mission in 2021". Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  4. ^ India's First Manned Space Mission in 2021: ISRO Chairman to NDTV
  5. ^ ISRO: India working on manned flight mission
  6. ^ India's manned space mission likely by 2021
  7. ^ "ISRO considering manned space mission: Nair". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 9 August 2007. 
  8. ^ "Eleventh Five year Plan (2007–12) proprosals for Indian space programme" (PDF). Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "ISRO plans manned mission to moon in 2014". Business Standard. 
  10. ^ "India announces first manned space mission". BBC. 27 January 2010
  11. ^ a b c "Indian Cosmonauts will not Fly in Russian Soyuz". 10 October 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Model of space crew module ready, The Hindu, 2 May 2009
  13. ^ "IAF developing parameters for India's manned space mission". The Economic Times. 28 December 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 


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