Rockets of Today

GAGANYAAN (गगनयान) — India

India’s space agency, ISRO, is working away at making a crewed capsule. It looks roughly like a first-gen Dragon in shape, with steep sides and a flat top. They plan to use its first crewed flight to make three “gagannauts” spend a solid week cooped up in it as they do little zero-gee experiments, to make sure it’s ready for lengthy missions. They started a crew selection process and hinted that they might go with a group of all women. But as expected, they picked men.

No exact specs are available yet, but the size of the thing is apparently somewhere between 3.0 and 3.8 meters wide, and it might weigh under eight tons... so unless they add an upper module, it might make a Shenzhou seem roomy. It looks like they plan to put a substantial service module under it. It would fly atop the GSLV Mark III, from a new launch pad yet to be built. They have already done a bunch of development on heat shields, reentry techniques, escape systems, space suits, and so on. Once those steps were proven, budgetary obstacles were removed and the program could proceed without the political delays which hampered its earlier phases.

The whole project then got set back about two years due to covid. ISRO launched only two rockets per year during 2020 and 2021, where they had previously been doing six or more per year, and forthcoming projects made almost no progress during that time. With other delays of the usual sort, the project has now slipped by four years at least.

The word gaganyaan just means “sky vehicle”.