ISRO training IAF pilots for Gaganyaan mission; working on its own life support system

In July of this year, India joined an elite group of countries who have been to the Moon after the nation’s lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, achieved success. What made India stand out was the area its spacecraft managed to land — the south pole of the Moon, which hasn’t been explored before — and the cost with which the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) worked with, which was almost half of the total production cost of acclaimed Hollywood movie Interstellar.

Now, Sreedhara Somanath, the ISRO boss has revealed India’s future plans pertaining to its space programme. As per the ISRO Chairman, the country is currently training four pilots from the Indian Air Force, who would become a part of India’s maiden manned mission, ‘Gaganyaan’.

In an exclusive article for Manorama Yearbook 2024, the 60-year-old said the four IAF personnel are undergoing training at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

“ISRO is planning to launch a crew of two to three Indian astronauts into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for up to three days before safely returning them to a predefined site in Indian waters,” excerpts from the article read.

Several critical technologies will need to be developed for Gaganyaan. These include a human-rated (capable of safely transporting humans) launch vehicle (LVM3), an Orbital Module comprising a Crew Module (CM) and Service Module (SM), and life support systems.

Somanath also said that two identical uncrewed missions (G1 & G2) besides Integrated Air Drop Test, Pad Abort Test, and Test Vehicle flights will precede the manned mission.

Meanwhile, ISRO is also planning to send Indian astronauts for the first time to the Moon by 2040. “Somanath also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set ambitious goals such as commissioning ‘Bharatiya Antariksha Station’ (Indian Space Station) by 2035, and embarking on interplanetary exploration, featuring a Venus Orbiter Mission and a Mars Lander, to further solidify India’s presence on the global space stage,” it stated.

India to develop ECLSS on its own

Somanath on Wednesday (December 13, 2023) said that India will be indigenously develop the environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) for Gaganyaan. The decision was taken after the country failed to acquire it from other countries, reports said.

While the ISRO chief called the unwillingness of other countries to share expertise unfortunate, he said that India will be using its existing knowledge and industries to develop the ECLSS.

He also said that ISRO needs to have more skill and confidence that it currently possesses before sending humans through the Gaganyaan programme.

He also spoke about the risk of a mission going wrong and said the lives of those humans taking part in the mission shouldn’t be put at risk.

Gaganyaan is scheduled for a planned launch in the first quarter of 2024.