India announces plans for human spaceflight by 2022

NI News Network

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.112 Published online 28 August 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement on India's Independence Day (15 August 2018) of launching a human spaceflight by 2022 has now been backed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which announced its ground plans for the mission today.

At a press conference in New Delhi, ISRO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan unveiled the space agency's preparedness to send three Indians to space on 'Gaganyaan' by India's 75th Independence Day, putting to rest speculations that Modi had fast-tracked the mission.

Sivan said the lion's share of the technology for the mission, being readied since 2004, had already been developed and tested. "The spacesuit is ready. The crew members will be jointly selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and ISRO after which they will be trained for 2-3 years," he added.  

Following successful missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan in 2008) and Mars (Mangalyaan in 2013), ISRO's ambitions for a human spaceflight are being supported by Rakesh Sharma, a former IAF pilot who flew aboard the Russian Soyuz T-11 in 1984. Sixty nine-year-old Sharma is the only Indian citizen to have gone to space.

The Indian astronauts aboard Gaganyaan — hopefully one of them female — will be launched into space on board ISRO's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket in about 16 minutes. They will spend about a week in a low-earth orbit (300-400 km) conducting microgravity and other experiments, Sivan said. The seven-tonne crew capsule will then detach from the vehicle for splashdown in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gujarat. 

The mission – including two test launches before the actual flight – will cost about Rs 10,000 crore.