ISRO's Chairman Dr. K Sivan and GSLV Mark-III vehicle lifts off on its 1st operational flight

ISRO has set its sights on Gaganyaan, India’s first manned mission to space. With most of the critical technologies ready for it, the organisation is working towards a new deadline of 2022, announced by the PM in his I-Day speech. Let’s see what the mission is about

If all goes well, India will script a new chapter in its space endeavour by launching its first human space flight programme (HSP), Gaganyaan, in 2022. Work on the mission began in 2004 and most of the key technologies are in place. With the announcement by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address, a new deadline has been set. K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has expressed confidence that the target is challenging, but doable.

If successful, India would become the fourth nation to send a person into space, after Russia, the U.S. and China. Let’s explore more about the project in this week’s Five Ws & One H.

WHAT Is Gaganyaan All About?

Gaganyaan, the human space flight programme, is all about sending a crew of three Indian astronauts to circle Earth at a distance of about 300-400 km from the surface for up to seven days. They will be launched into space using an indigenous Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV- MK III). The astronauts will be flight test pilots from the Indian Air Force. The vehicle will be launched from the refurbished launchpad at Sriharikota. The mission is estimated to cost about Rs. 9000 crore.

ISRO is expected to complete two unmanned missions before embarking on the manned space flight.

WHO Will Lead The Project?

V.R. Lalithambika, a specialist in advanced launcher technologies, will lead the programme. She has worked on all Indian rockets, including the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), GSLV and indigenous space shuttle.

What Are The Key Requirements Of The Project?

  • A launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space
  • A crew module that can carry human beings
  • A crew escape system
  • Re-entry and recovery technology for the crew to return
  • The Environmental Control & Life Support System
  • Astronaut Training
  • Tracking and monitoring system


A launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space is important for a human spaceflight project. ISRO’s GSLV MK-III, the country’s heaviest rocket, is considered to be ideal as the 640-tonne and 43-metre tall rocket can launch 10 tonnes of payload into low-Earth orbit, an altitude of 2,000 km or less above the planet. The crew module is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.

Whereas ISRO’s main launch vehicle, the PSLV, which carried the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions, weighs about 320 tonnes and can carry payloads up to two tonnes and to orbits of 600 km altitude from the Earth’s surface, and hence is not suitable to send a crew into space

What Is The Current Status of The Project?

While the launch vehicle, crew module, re-entry technology, crew escape system are in place, monitoring and tracking systems, ECLSS, space suit and crew support systems are in the developmental phase. The launchpad at the Sriharikota spaceport, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, will be enhanced for the human mission. ISRO may collaborate with the Indian Air Force and its Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bangalore, to train astronauts.

HOW Did The Project Take Shape?

2004: The ISRO Policy Planning Committee made recommendation for a manned space mission
2006: Preliminary studies of Gaganyaan started under the generic name Orbital Vehicle.
2008: An initial design of a fully autonomous vehicle to carry two astronauts was finalised in March 2008
2009: A committee was formed to analyse the feasibility of the program
February 2009: The funding for the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme was sanctioned
December 18, 2014 : Successful testing of experimental flight of GSLV MK-III was carried out
June 5, 2017: First flight of GSLV MK-III was carried out. GSLV MK-III placed the country’s heaviest satellite till date, GSAT-19, into a precise orbit. With it, India became a nation having its own indigenous cryogenic engine technology
July 5, 2018: First successful flight of the crew escape system was carried out. The crew escape system is an emergency measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort.
August 15, 2018: Prime Minister promised manned mission before 2022