Indian Human Spaceflight Programme-Indian Manned Spaceflight Dream


By Sujith Mohandas(LMB)

ISRO has achieved a lot from its inception in 1969. From India’s first satellite Aryabhata which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975 to launch of a lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008. With the launch of Mars Orbiter Mission, on 5 November 2013, which entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, India became the first nation to succeed on its first attempt to Mars, and ISRO the fourth space agency in the world as well as the first space agency in Asia to reach Mars orbit. On 18 June 2016 ISRO set a record with a launch of 20 satellites in a single payload, one being a satellite from Google. On 15 February 2017, ISRO launched 104 satellites in a single rocket (PSLV-C37) and created a world record. ISRO launched its heaviest rocket, Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), on 5 June 2017 and placed a communications satellite GSAT-19 in orbit. With this launch, ISRO became capable of launching 4 ton heavy satellites.

Now to realize the dream of India’s first manned mission to space ISRO has started working on a program called Indian human spaceflight program. The Indian human Spaceflight program is a proposal by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to develop and launch a two-person crew to low Earth orbit. 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.

Prototype Diagram of Capsule to be used for Indian human spaceflight program

ISRO has already started development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew into a low-Earth orbit (LEO). MC Dathan, director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) stated that ISRO will set up a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore for training Vyomanauts (Indian Equivalent of astronauts). ISRO is planning to build a third launch pad at Sriharikota for manned missions with extra facilities like entry into the crew capsule and an escape chute. 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.

The major objective of this programme is to develop the fully autonomous three-ton ISRO Orbital Vehicle spaceship to carry a 2-member crew to orbit and safely return to Earth after a mission duration of a 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 with an orbital platform. ISRO plans to use for OV (Orbital Vehicle) 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, and the rocket will inject the Orbital Vehicle (OV) into an orbit 300 km-400 km from Earth. The capsule would return for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.

Proposed space suit to be used by Vyomanauts

India would receive assistance in crew selection and training from Russia under an agreement signed between the two countries in March 2008. ISRO will build centrifuges to train the Vyomanauts 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 ₹600 crore (US$89.4 million). India will be shortlisting 200 IAF pilots for this purpose. The selection process would begin by the candidates having to solve an 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 laboratory tests at the Indian Aerospace Medicine in Bengaluru. Only 4 of the 200 applicants will be selected for the first space mission training. While two will fly, two shall act as the reserve.

The crew escape system along with the simulated crew module with a mass of 12.6 tonnes, lifted off at 7 am on 5th of July 2018 at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh

On 5 July 2018, ISRO successfully conducted ‘pad abort’ test at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota which is critical for the future human space mission. This is the first test in a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology of a manned mission in the future. The Crew Escape System is essential to pull out crew quickly in case of a launch abort.

ISRO has an impressive record of successfully implementing and executing its program and it is quite confident of executing this human spaceflight program later by 2024. In fact, it would be a proud moment for us if we are able to send out Vyomanauts to space by that time and would surely portray our technical capabilities to the world.