Indian pilots to return to Russia soon for customised space suits

Moscow is also helping with the design of view ports and life support systems

Updated - August 29, 2021 02:12 pm IST

Published - August 28, 2021 11:03 pm IST - MOSCOW

Space suits protect astronauts from extreme temperatures and vacuum. Image for representation. Photo: Special Arrangement

Space suits protect astronauts from extreme temperatures and vacuum. Image for representation. Photo: Special Arrangement

In March this year, four Indian Air Force (IAF) officers who completed a year-long training in the Russian Space Academy as part of India’s Gaganyaan human space flight programme. They will soon return to Russia for getting their space suits made as per individual specifications.

“Having completed their training, they returned home… We also expect our astronauts to return to Russia for very specific tasks. The space suits are being stitched in Russia and they will be coming here to Moscow to undertake tailoring measurements,” Ambassador of India to Russia D.B. Venkatesh Varma told The Hindu . So this will be a happy occasion when we will see our astronauts back in Moscow though for a brief time, he stated.

Roscosmos said last August that as part of the training, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, the Indian pilots underwent general space training and systems training of the Soyuz MS crewed spacecraft and also had Russian language lessons.

The pilots were also trained on crew actions in the event of an abnormal descent module landing — in wooded and marshy areas in winter (completed in February 2020), on the water surface (completed in June 2020) and in the steppe in summer (completed in July 2020). They were also trained to prepare for sustaining spaceflight factors, such as G-force, hypoxia and pressure drop, Roscosmos said.

In addition to the training, Russia is also assisting the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in other way. “India-Russia Cooperation in the space field, on Gaganyaan would continue in certain other aspects. Russia is helping us with the design of view ports and life support systems,” Mr. Varma said.

Stating that space and nuclear power continue to be two important pillars of our cooperation between India and Russia, the envoy said that when Indian astronauts, Gagannauts as they are called, travel into space, they will be on board an Indian spacecraft, largely using Indian technology and Indian training. “They will fly on a space voyage uplifted by the good wishes and prayers of millions of our people but also taken forward on the wings of Indo-Russian friendship,” he added.

According to the portal, space suits serve as “self-contained spaceships that protect astronauts from extreme temperatures, micrometeoroids and the nearly pure vacuum of space for hours at a time, so that they can take a stroll outside the confines of their spacecraft or enjoy a brisk walk on the Moon.”

However, space suits shouldn’t be confused with the pressure suits worn by astronauts, test pilots and others during launch and landing, it stated.

ISRO roadmap

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in August 2018 that an Indian will go to space by 2022 coinciding with 75 years of Independence, ISRO had outlined a roadmap to put a three-person crew in a low earth orbit by an indigenous GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle.

The space suits are being made by Russian research, development and production enterprise Zvezda under the contract of Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian space corporation Roscosmos, with the Human Spaceflight Centre (HSC) of ISRO. “On September 3, Indian cosmonauts who have been training for a spaceflight in Russia under the contract of Glavkosmos, visited Zvezda, where their anthropometric parameters were measured for the subsequent production of spacesuits. The contract also provides for the production of individual seats and custom-made couch liners,” CEO of Glavkosmos Dmitry Loskutov said last September.

The contract for the production and delivery of individual equipment kits for Indian cosmonauts was signed by HSC and Glavkosmos on March 11, 2020 and the four Indian cosmonauts have been training in Russia since February 10, 2020.

Glavkosmos had also helped ISRO in selecting the four IAF pilots as per an agreement signed on June 27, 2019, for the selection support, medical examination and space training of Indian astronauts. The two sides had also signed an agreement to assess the possibility of using Russian flight equipment in life support systems and providing thermal regime for the manned spacecraft Gaganyaan.

However, the overall programme has been slightly delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan recently confirmed that the launch of the first unmanned mission planned for this December will be delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown and related disruptions in delivery of hardware. The unmanned missions will shift to next year, he had stated.

ISRO has, in the past, stated that it would conduct two unmanned missions to validate the entire cycle of human space flight before the actual mission. In addition to Russia, France and the U.S. are also assisting India India in the human flight programme.

Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma (Retd.) remains the only Indian to have travelled into space on April 3, 1984 aboard a Soyuz T-11 as part of the Soviet Interkosmos programme.

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