India ties up with “old friend” Russia to train astronauts for its first manned mission

Men on mission.
Men on mission.
Image: AP, Aijaz Rahi
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

India’s first manned space mission will take wings in Russia.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has signed a pact with the Russian firm Glavkosmos to select and train astronauts for the country’s Gaganyaan project, The Times of India newspaper reported on July 2.

“The training will be in three levels. After the rigorous selection progress, two levels of training will be done at Institute of Aerospace Medicine (in Bengaluru) and the third level will be done abroad,” Isro chairman K Sivan told the newspaper. “Simulation of the real space environment, parabolic flights and training in the spacecraft et al will be done outside India.”

Gaganyaan is a crewed orbital spacecraft expected to carry three people into space for seven days. Isro’s Geo-Synchronous Launch Vehicle Mk III, a three-stage rocket, will be used for the mission that is estimated to cost around Rs9,000 crore ($1.31 billion).

Isro plans to launch its first manned space mission in 2022.

Russia, an old friend

India and Russia have a decades-old relationship in the field of space technology.

Russia’s Soyuz T-11 had taken India’s first astronaut, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, to space in 1984 under the Interkosmos programme. Sharma is now a member of the national advisory council (NAC) advising Isro on Gaganyaan.

Earlier, Isro had also considered nations like US and France for the mission, said Sharma.

“I think it’s logical to go with Russia as it has been tried and tested. We’ve used the facility before. However, I am unaware of the state of readiness of the other training establishments. Given the tight timelines we have, this appears most logical,” Sharma told The Times of India.

Gaganyaan is expected to be placed in a low-earth orbit of 300-400 km. Within 16 minutes of taking off, the crew will be in space, where they will remain for up to seven days. The return journey is expected to take 36 minutes.