India and Russia are stepping up cooperation in the space sector with Moscow extending help in 4-5 critical areas of India’s ambitious manned mission to space, Gaganyaan . This includes training of Indian astronauts at Russian facilities beginning later this year, sources at the Indian Embassy in Moscow said.
“There are certain critical aspects India and Russia are cooperating. In some instances we are taking their help because they have huge experience in human space flight. There are some cases where Russia is helping us adapt their technology to Indian requirements. So it will essentially be an Indian spacecraft and this of course reduces time and the margins of error,” an embassy source told The Hindu .
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on August 15, 2018 that an Indian will go to space by the 75th Independence Day, Indian Space Research Research Organisation (ISRO) has outlined a road map to put a three-man crew in a low earth orbit for 5-7 days by December 2021 by an indigenous GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle from a third launch pad under construction at Sriharikota.
Stating that the programme is on track and the process of astronaut selection will begin shortly, the source said that “towards the end of the year, by November or so we will have four Indian astronauts who will come here.”
“They will go through a 15-month training at the end of which further selection will be made. There will be further 6-8 months advanced training in India prior to the actual launch by end 2021,” the source stated.
Observing that the difference between space launches and human launches is that “space launches tend to aim for the optimum, human launches aim for perfection,” the source added that India sees Russia as a “reliable, long-term partner” with great experience in human space flight over the last 50 years.
“A special ISRO unit will be established in the embassy in Moscow to facilitate increased cooperation between India and Russia in view of the Gaganyaan programme,” the source added.
Space cooperation will be reviewed at the highest level during the summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week in Vladivostok.
The Gaganyaan programme is expected to cost under ₹10,000 crore and there will be two unmanned missions prior to the manned mission to validate the technologies.
ISRO Chairman Dr. K. Sivan had stated earlier that they began work on the manned mission in 2004 and many of the critical technologies required have already been validated through various tests.
(The writer was at MAKS air show on the invitation of the Russian Government )