Updated January 16th, 2024 at 20:27 IST

ISRO Astronauts Likely To Use Russian-made Spacesuits For Gaganyaan Mission: Report

The objective of ISRO's Gaganyaan mission is to launch three Indian nationals to space and bring them back safely after three days.

Reported by: Harsh Vardhan
ESA Astronaut Matthias Maurer trying on the Russian Orlan spacesuit. | Image:ESA
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ISRO may choose Russian-made spacesuits for its astronauts selected for the Gaganyaan mission. Since the agency lacks experience in designing spacesuits for manned missions, a report by Russia Today says it will rely on Russia which has been in the business since it launched the first man in space Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

ISRO's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre has developed its own Intra Vehicular Activity (IVA) suits but experience is likely to give Russia the advantage. Notably, ISRO is yet to confirm the developments about the spacesuits and what option it will choose.

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Cosmonauts in Russian spacesuits. Image: AP 

The objective of the Gaganyaan mission is to launch three Indian nationals to the low-Earth orbit (400 km altitude) and bring them back safely after three days.

It is worth noting that India's potential choice of Russian spacesuits stem from the fact that Moscow has been the biggest supporter of the $1.4 billion Gaganyaan program which is being developed under an agreement between ISRO and Russia's space agency Roscosmos. Apart from getting technical assistance, the selected astronauts candidate even underwent almost a year of training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow. 

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While NASA could also have been an option, the American agency is itself relying on Axiom Space to develop spacesuits for the Artemis Moon missions.

Axiom Space official demonstrates the spacesuit. Image: Axiom Space

Apart from Axiom Space, which revealed its spacesuit prototype to the world in March 2023, Elon Musk's SpaceX is also an expert in spacesuit design. SpaceX has a 5-star rating from NASA in terms of its spacesuit quality. However, the suit is only fit for travels to the low-Earth orbit and not for spacewalks.

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Astronauts Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken (right) in SpaceX spacesuits. Image: SpaceX

The SpaceX suit provides several advantages like being lightweight, it can be crafted according to the individual's physique and it is easier to get in and out of the suit. However, it is designed according to SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft as its gloves can be used for touchscreens and it can be plugged into seats for oxygen supply.

If weight of the suits are considered, Russia's new Orlan spacesuits could prove to be a disadvantage. Built to protect astronauts from micrometeorites and radiation, the Orlan weighs about 115 kg. It is possible that Russia will present a tailor-made spacesuit to ISRO that cosmonauts use to and from the International Space Station (ISS) since spacewalks are not a part of the Gaganyaan mission. 

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As for the Gaganyaan program, ISRO completed the first step with the Test Vehicle Abort Mission-1 in October, 2023. The mission was to test the uncrewed spacecraft in a simulated abort condition if one arises during the actual flight with astronauts. ISRO ruled the test a success after it tested navigation, sequencing, telemetry, instrumentation and power of the spacecraft which was launched on a single-rocket and parachuted down into the Bay of Bengal from an altitude of 17 km.

Earlier on January 6, when the Aditya-L1 observatory was inserted into the Lagrange Point 1 Halo orbit, agency Chairman S Somanath said that 2024 will be the year of Gaganyaan. Several more tests including one with a robot Vyommitra is in the works before launching astronauts in late 2025 or early 2026. 

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Published January 16th, 2024 at 16:25 IST