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Indian Human Spaceflight Programme
Indian Astronaut Patch
Program overview
OrganizationHuman Space Flight Centre (ISRO)
PurposeHuman spaceflight
Programme history
Cost10,000 crore (US$1.2 billion) for maiden crewed mission
First flightGaganyaan-1 (2024)[2]
First crewed flightGaganyaan-4 (NET 2025)[3]
Launch site(s)Satish Dhawan Space Centre
Vehicle information
Launch vehicle(s)

The Indian Human Spaceflight Programme (or Gaganyaan) is an ongoing programme by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to develop the technology needed to launch crewed orbital spacecraft into low Earth orbit.[4] Three uncrewed flights, named Gaganyaan-1, Gaganyaan-2 and Gaganyaan-3 are scheduled to launch in 2024, followed by crewed flight in 2024 on an HLVM3 rocket.[3][2][5][6][7]

Before the Gaganyaan mission announcement in August 2018, human spaceflight was not a priority for ISRO, but it had been working on related technologies since 2007,[8] and it performed a Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment[9] and a Pad Abort Test for the mission.[10][11] In December 2018, the government approved a further 100 billion (US$1.5 billion) for a 7-days crewed flight of 2–3 astronauts.[12][13][14][15]

If completed successfully, India will become the fourth nation to conduct independent human spaceflight after the Soviet Union/Russia, United States, and China. After conducting the first crewed spaceflights, the agency intends to start a space station programme, crewed lunar landings, and crewed interplanetary missions in the long term.[16][17]


Prototype flight suit for crewed mission

On August 9, 2007, the then Chairman of the ISRO, G. Madhavan Nair, indicated the agency was "seriously considering" the creation of the Human Spaceflight Programme. He further indicated that within a year, ISRO would report on its development of new space capsule technologies.[18] Development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew into low Earth orbit (LEO) began a few months after that when the government allocated 95 crore (US$11.4 million) for pre-project initiatives for 2007 through 2008. A crewed orbital spaceflight would require about 12,400 crore (US$1.5 billion) and a period of seven years of development. The Planning Commission estimated that a budget of 5,000 crore (US$599.1 million) was required for initial work during 2007–2012 for the crewed spaceflight.[8][19] In February 2009, the Government of India authorized the human space flight programme,[20] but fell short of fully funding it or creating the programme.

The trials for crewed space missions began in 2007 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 was followed by the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment and the Pad Abort Test in 2018. This enables India to develop heat-resistant materials, technology, and procedures necessary for human space travel.

As per memorandum of understanding (MoU), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will provide support for Human Space Mission with 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, fire suppression systems, etc.[21] Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) has worked on the space food for the crew and has been conducting trials on a G-suit for astronauts as well.[22][23] A prototype called 'Advanced Crew Escape Suit' weighing 13 kg and built by Sure Safety (India) Private Limited has been tested and performance verified.[24][25][26][27] While the crew module is designed to carry a total of 3 passengers, the maiden crewed mission may only have one or two crews on board.[28]

Having shown success in all preliminary tests,[29] the decisive push for the creation of the Human Spaceflight Programme took place in 2017,[30] and it was accepted and formally announced by the Prime Minister on August 15, 2018.[31] The funding is approximately Rs 10,000 crore. The testing phase was expected to begin in December 2020, and the first crewed mission was to be undertaken in December 2021.[32] However, on June 11, 2020, it was announced that the overall schedule for the Gaganyaan launches had been postponed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, in turn revising the timetable for the HSP.[33] As of December 2022, the first uncrewed test flight is scheduled to launch no earlier than mid-2024,[6] with the uncrewed second and crewed third flights to follow afterward.[5] As per ISRO, the initial review process is complete for food, potable water, emergency first aid kits, and health monitoring systems for the Gaganyaan mission until March 16, 2021.[citation needed] ISRO and the CNES joint working group on the Human Spaceflight Programme are collaborating on space medicine for Gaganyaan project.[34]

Spacecraft developments

Main article: Gaganyaan

Schedule of Gaganyaan[6][35][36]
Mission Patch Launch date Crew Launch vehicle Duration Goal Status
Gaganyaan-1 (Test Flight 1) TBA July 2024[2][37] LVM3 2 days Technology demonstration Planned
Gaganyaan-2 (Test Flight 2) TBA Q4 2024[5][37] 2 days Technology demonstration mission carrying Vyommitra, the humanoid robot Planned
Gaganyaan-3 (Test Flight 3) TBD Q1 2025[5][37][3] 2 days Technology demonstration mission carrying Vyommitra, the humanoid robot Planned
Gaganyaan-4 (Crewed Flight) 2025[5][37] IndiaTBD
India TBD
TBD First crewed flight Planned
Gaganyaan development timeline

The first phase of this programme is to develop and fly the 3.7-ton spacecraft called Gaganyaan with the capacity to carry a 3-member crew in low Earth orbit and safely return to Earth after a mission duration of a few orbits to two days.[36] The extendable version of the spaceship will allow flights up to seven days, rendezvous and docking capability.

In the next phase, enhancements will lead to the development of a small habitat, allowing spaceflight durations of 30–40 days at once. Further advances based on experience will subsequently lead to development of a space station.[38]

On October 7, 2016, Vikram Sarabhai Space Center Director K. Sivan stated that ISRO was gearing up to conduct a critical 'crew bailout test' called the ISRO Pad Abort Test to see how fast and effectively the crew module could be released safely in the event of an emergency. The tests were conducted successfully on July 5, 2018, at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This was the first of a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology.[39][40] Parachute tests were scheduled before the end of 2019, and multiple in-flight abort tests were planned starting mid-2020.[41][needs update]

India will not use any animals for life support system testing but robots resembling humans will be used.[42][43] ISRO is targeting more than 99.8% reliability for its crew escape system.[44]

ISRO plans to launch its crewed orbiter Gaganyaan atop a Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3).[7] About 16 minutes after lift-off, the rocket will inject the orbital vehicle into an orbit 300 to  km above Earth. The capsule would return for a splashdown in the Arabian Sea near the Gujarat coastline.[45] As of May 2019, the design of the crew module was complete.[46] The spacecraft will be flown twice uncrewed for validation before conducting actual human spaceflight.[47][48][49] As of January 2020, the crew module was due to undergo testing in the wind tunnel facility of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL).[50] The spacecraft will carry one crew in its maiden crewed mission to an orbit of 400 km (250 mi).[28]

The first uncrewed flight will involve the launch of a 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) module which, after orbiting will re-enter the atmosphere and decelerate at an altitude of 7 km (4.3 mi) before splashing down.[51]

Infrastructure development

Launch pad

Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

India's maiden crewed mission is expected to take off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre Second Launch Pad. In November 2019, ISRO released tenders for the pad's augmentation.[52][53][54][55][56] A third launch pad in Sriharikota has been proposed for India's future launch vehicles and crewed missions.[57] Systems for crew ingress and egress, an access platform, recovery setup for emergencies during the flight’s ascent phase, module preparation facility for assembly and testing will be built. All the facilities will be connected to an upcoming Gaganyaan control facility which will be built nearby and facilitate communication and monitor the crew capsule during flight.[58]

Human-Rating of LVM3

2D representation of ISRO's Human Rated LVM3.

Human-rating allows the system to be capable of safely transporting humans. ISRO will be building and launching 3 missions to validate the human rating of the LVM3.[3][59] Existing launch facilities will be upgraded to enable them to carry out launches under the Indian Human Spaceflight campaign.[60][61]

ISRO has been modifying propulsion modules of various stages of the rocket for human rating. Theoretical parameters for human rating were expected to be achieved by August or September 2020 to be followed by simulations and three test launches.[62][needs update]

Escape System

launch escape system

ISRO has successfully conducted a pad abort test to validate its launch escape system for fast and effective crew extraction in the event of an emergency. The tests were conducted successfully on July 5, 2018, at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This was the first of a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology.[39][40] Work on parachute enlargement is also ongoing.[59][63] Parachute tests are scheduled before the end of 2019, and multiple in-flight abort tests are planned starting mid-2020, using a liquid-fueled test vehicle.[41][64][needs update]

A new test vehicle was designed in early 2020 for the validation of the crew escape system. The vehicle was built for in-flight crew escape of crew and possesses propulsion on top of the module to pull the module away to a safe distance.[62]


ISRO is working on developing an indigenous mechanism to certify its spacecraft that will take humans to space.[65]


See also: List of Indian astronauts

Astronaut selection and training

In the spring of 2009, a full-scale mock-up of the crew capsule was built and delivered to Satish Dhawan Space Centre for astronaut training. India was to shortlist 200 Indian Air Force pilots for this purpose. The selection process would begin with the candidates completing an ISRO questionnaire, after which they would be subjected to physical and psychological analyses. Only 4 of the 200 applicants were to be selected for the first space mission training. While two will fly, two shall act as reservists.[66][67]

ISRO signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009 with the Indian Air Force's Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) to conduct preliminary research on the psychological and physiological needs of the crew and the development of training facilities.[68][69] IAM played a key role in determining astronaut training, the design of the crew capsule as per the anthropometric dimensions of the Indian population and a number of control and environmental systems as per psychological and physiological needs.[70]

The announcement of Gaganyaan by Prime Minister Modi immediately attracted an enthusiastic reaction from the Indian diaspora, and ISRO received millions of letters and emails from Indian residents as well as expats willing to volunteer as astronauts for the project.[71]

In January 2019, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan announced the creation of India's Human Space Flight Centre in Bengaluru for training astronauts.[72] The 1,000 crore (US$119.8 million) centre will train the selected astronauts in rescue and recovery operations, operations in a zero-gravity environment, and monitoring of the radiation environment. While the HSFC will initially operate out of ISRO headquarters, another facility, a dedicated campus, has been planned to be built near Bengaluru. The facility will include offices, housing, testing and integration facilities and will also employ a workforce of 1,000 people in the long term.[73]

An astronaut training facility will be established on a proposed 140 acres (0.57 km2) site near Kempegowda International Airport in Devanahalli, Karnataka.[74]

ISRO's Human Space Flight Centre and Glavcosmos, which is a subsidiary of the Russian state corporation Roscosmos, signed an agreement on July 1, 2019, for cooperation in the selection, support, medical examination, and space training of four Indian astronauts.[75][76] An ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) has been approved to be set up in Moscow for coordination activities.[77] Until September 2019, level 1 of the astronaut selection process was completed in Bengaluru. The selected test pilots underwent physical exercise tests, lab investigations, radiological tests, clinical tests, and evaluations on various facets of their psychology.[78][79] By November 2019 the Indian Air Force had selected 12 potential astronauts who would then go to Russia for further training in two batches.[80]

As selection criteria require test pilot experience, any females will not be part of the first Indian crewed spaceflight. The first crewed flight will consist of a crew of three with one backup and this team of four went to Russia for astronaut training.[41]

In December 2019, the selection process came to a close,[81][82] and four candidates began their 12-month training at the Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) on February 10, 2020.[83] The astronauts were trained for abnormal landings in various terrains, including forests, rivers, and sea.[62]

In February 2020, Indian astronaut candidates completed their winter survival training.[84][85][86]

ISRO has also proposed a2,700 crore (US$320 million) plan to establish an astronaut training centre at Challakere in Chitradurga district. The facility would take at least 2–3 years to be established after the government's approval.[87] Following their training in Russia for unexpected and extreme situations, Indian astronauts were to return to India in March 2021 for the rest of their training in an Indian module.[17] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, training was put on hold from March 28 to May 11 and restarted on May 12, 2020.[35] CNES is supplying the flight system and training flight physicians and technical teams for the Indian Human Spaceflight Program. It is also collaborating and sharing its expertise in the domains of space medicine, astronaut health monitoring and life support.[88]

On the 91st Indian Air Force Day in 2023, the IAF released a video on Twitter, sharing a glimpse of the astronauts (without revealing their faces) training for the Gaganyaan mission.[89] While two or three out of the four astronauts will be selected to fly on the first crewed flight, one of the remaining backup astronauts on this mission will fly before the Gaganyaan prime crew on a mission to the ISS aboard Ax-4 in early 2024, as the second Indian astronaut in space after Rakesh Sharma, though the plan is yet to be finalized. The four have been conducting mission-specific training in India ever since they returned from Russia.[90][91][92]

Candidates announcement and First crew

Indian Astronauts Corps (2019 Batch) (L-R) Nair, Krishnan, Pratap and Shukla

On 27 February 2024, at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the names of the four designated astronauts who will be eligible for future flights as part of the Gaganyaan program, as well as an Indo-US joint mission (Ax-4) to the International Space Station. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, ISRO chairman S. Somanath and other high-ranking ISRO officials were present at the reveal.[93][94][95][96] The selected astronauts are:

They were given Indian astronaut wings and the Gaganyaan mission logo and moto.[97][98]

Ground uniform

The ground uniforms were developed by the staff and students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bengaluru. Under the direction of the former NIFT director Susan Thomas, the NIFT team—which consisted of three students, Lamia Anees, Samarpan Pradhan, and Tuliya D—as well as two professors, Jonalee Bajpai and Mohan Kumar V—worked on designing the ground uniform for the Gaganyaan mission. The team highlighted the importance for the astronaut-designates' pockets to fit perfectly and the uniform must operate well in order to support their motions. Seventy possibilities were considered before the final design was chosen. The NIFT team examined various space agency uniforms, such as those from SpaceX and NASA. The theme that the NIFT team has explored is asymmetry. The group worked on a two-colored, asymmetrical style line. The design was commissioned in 2021 by the NIFT team, and in 2022, they handed the design to ISRO.[99][100]

Space food

The Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed dried and packaged food for astronauts. The food laboratory has developed around 70 varieties of dehydrated and processed food items that have undergone strict procedures to eliminate on microbacterial and macrobacterial nutrients. Special care has to be taken in the packaging, and the food items should be of limited weight, but at the same time should be high in nutritional quality.[101] Waste disposal systems for leftover food, liquid dispensing systems, food rehydrating systems and heaters adaptable to outer space conditions are in development, although the list of food products planned to fly aboard Gaganyaan is yet to be publicised as of August 2020. DFRL is expected to launch its RTE space food by March 2021

This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2024)

while the initial batch for the manned spaceflight Gaganyaan-H1 will carry foodstuffs sufficient for 7 days.[102]

Space medicine

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India has trained a few flight surgeons in space medicine with the assistance of Russia and France.[citation needed]

Humanoid robots

Main article: Vyommitra


Unlike other nations that have carried out human spaceflight, India will not fly animals into space. Instead, it will fly humanoid robots for a better understanding of what weightlessness and radiation do to the human body during long durations in space.[103][28] A legless humanoid named as Vyom Mitrā was displayed in January 2020 which is expected to fly onboard uncrewed experimental missions as well as assist astronauts on crewed missions.[104]

Experiments and objectives

On 7 November 2018, ISRO released an Announcement of Opportunity seeking proposals from the Indian science community for microgravity experiments that could be carried out during the first two robotic flights of Gaganyaan.[105][106] The scope of the experiments is not restricted, and other relevant ideas will be entertained. The proposed orbit for microgravity platform is expected to be in an Earth-bound orbit at approximately 400 km altitude. All the proposed internal and external experimental payloads will undergo thermal, vacuum and radiation tests under required temperature and pressure conditions. To carry out micro-gravity experiments for long duration, a satellite may be placed in orbit. Indian vyomanauts will perform four biological and two physical science experiments related to micro-gravity during the mission.[107]

Space station

Main article: Bharatiya Antariksha Station

India plans to deploy a 20-tonne space station named Bharatiya Antariksha Station,[3] as a follow-up programme to the Gaganyaan missions. On 13 June 2019, ISRO Chief K. Sivan announced the plan, saying that India's space station will be deployed 5–7 years after the completion of the Gaganyaan programme. He also said that India will not join the International Space Station program. The space station would be capable of harbouring a crew for 15–20 days at a time. It is expected to be placed in a low Earth orbit of 400 km altitude and be capable of harbouring three humans. Final approval is expected to be given to the programme by the Indian government only after the completion of the Gaganyaan missions.[108][109][110][111]

ISRO is working to develop spacecraft docking and berthing technology, with initial funding of ₹10 crore cleared in 2017.[112] A Space Docking Experiment, or SPADEX, is being worked out by ISRO with systems like signal analysis equipment, high-precision videometer for navigation, docking system electronics and real-time decision making for landing systems being developed in various stages. As part of SPADEX, ISRO will launch 2 small satellites for testing. This technology is crucial for a space station as it will enable the transfer of humans from one vehicle or spacecraft to another.[113]

See also


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