The Indian manned spacecraft, temporarily named Orbital Vehicle, is intended to be the basis of the Indian human spaceflight program. The space capsule will be designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability. In its maiden manned mission, Indian Space Research Organisation's largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 mi) altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board. The crew vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO's GSLV Mk III.[1][needs update] This HAL-manufactured crew module had its first unmanned experimental flight on 18 December 2014.[2]


The development of the Orbital Vehicle began in 2006. The plan was to design a simple vessel similar to the Mercury-class spacecraft with an endurance of about a week in space. It was designed to carry two astronauts and to land in water upon re-entry. The design was finalized by March 2008, and was submitted to the Government of India for funding. The funding for the Indian Human Spaceflight program was sanctioned in February 2009.[3] Initially, the first unmanned flight of the Orbital Vehicle was expected to be in 2013.[4]

ISRO based the Orbital Vehicle on the design of the SRE. ISRO had launched and recovered the 550-kg Space Recovery Capsule in January 2007. The full-scale manned OV spaceship was said to be derived from this, although ISRO's published concept showed a more elongated conical shape than the SRE.


The OV is a fully autonomous three-ton capsuled spacecraft designed to carry a 3-member crew to orbit and safely return to the Earth after a mission duration of few orbits to two days.

The space capsule will have life control and environment control systems. It will be equipped with emergency mission abort and emergency escape that can be done at the first stage and second stage of the rocket.[5] The illustration of the spacecraft showed a main engine and smaller orientation engines arranged in a light package around the base of the capsule, indicating an earth-orbit maneuvering capability was to be included. The nose of the original version of the OV was free for a docking mechanism, but primary entry was evidently through a side hatch secured by explosive bolts.[6]

The Orbital Vehicle is slated to be launched on the GSLV Mk II launcher.[7]

About 16 minutes after liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota, the rocket will inject the OV into an orbit 300–400 km from the Earth. The capsule would return for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.

The Indian OV spacecraft will be significantly smaller than current Russian Soyuz, Chinese Shenzhou, planned US Orion or past Apollo spaceships but larger than the past US Gemini spacecraft.

While many technological elements to put together a manned flight are already available, ISRO would need to develop many new and novel technologies to ensure a foolproof life-support system, safety, reliability and an escape system for the crew. And in order to perfect the reentry techniques considered crucial for a manned flight, ISRO is planning to carry out three more flights of Space Recovery Capsules (SRE) and few unmanned flights of the OV spaceship.[8]

Funding and Infrastructure

Development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle to carry a two-member crew into a low Earth orbit has begun. ISRO sources said the flight is likely to be in 2016. The government has allocated 500 million (US$10 million) for pre-project initiatives for 2007 through 2008. A manned mission into space would require about 124 billion (US$3 billion) and a period of seven years. The Planning Commission estimates that a budget of 50 billion (US$1 billion) is required for initial work of the manned mission during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007–12). The project report prepared by ISRO has been cleared by the space commission.[9][10] In February, 2009 the Government of India has given the green signal for the Manned Space flight Program due to launch in 2016.[11]

M.C.Dathan, director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), stated that ISRO will set up a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore for training astronauts. ISRO is also planning to build a third launch pad at Sriharkota for manned missions with extra facilities like entry into the crew capsule and an escape chute.[10]

In spring 2009 the full-scale mock-up of crew capsule of OV was built and delivered to Satish Dhawan Space Centre for training of astronauts.[12]


In January 2010, it was announced that the ISRO OV would be launched with astronauts into space around 2016.[11] However, in April 2012 it was reported that funding problems placed the future of the project in serious doubt;[13] and in August 2013, it was announced that all manned spaceflight efforts by India had been designated as being 'off ISRO's priority list'.[14]

However, by early 2014 the project had been reconsidered, and was one of the main beneficiaries of a substantial budget increase announced in February.[15] Just prior to this, in January 2014, the ISRO Chairman revealed that the OV would be tested in flight in 2014. Like the SRE-1 mission, the vehicle would also splash down in the Bay of Bengal.[16]

Crew Module Re-entry Experiment

On 13 February 2014, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited handed over the first Crew Module structural assembly to ISRO.[2][17] ISRO's VSSC would equip the Crew Module with systems necessary for crew support, navigation, guidance and control systems. ISRO undertook an unmanned test launch of the vehicle aboard the GSLV Mk3 X1 experimental sub-orbital flight on 18 December 2014. The GSLV Mk3 launcher with a dummy upper cryogenic stage (filled with liquid nitrogen to simulate weight of fuel) was launched at 9:30am from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.[18][19] The crew module separated from the rocket at an altitude of 126 km. On board motors controlled and reduced the speed of the module until an altitude of 80 km. Thrusters were shutoff at 80 km and atmospheric drag further reduced speed of the capsule. The module heat shield was expected to experience temperature in excess of 1600 °C. Parachutes were deployed at an altitude of 15 km to slow down the module which performed a soft landing in the Bay of Bengal near Andaman and Nicobar islands.

This flight was used to test orbital injection, separation and re-entry procedures and systems of the Crew Capsule. Also tested were the capsule separation, heat shields and aerobraking systems, deployment of parachute, retro-firing, splashdown, flotation systems and procedures to recover the Crew Capsule from the Bay of Bengal.[20][21]

Pad Abort Test

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Pad Abort Test was due for March 2017.There has been no news of the Test till date.

See also


  1. ^ K.S. Jayaraman (11 February 2009), Designs for India's First Manned Spaceship Revealed, Bangalore: Space.com, retrieved 14 June 2013 
  2. ^ a b http://hal-india.com/Crew%20Module.asp
  3. ^ Priyadarshi, Siddhanta (23 February 2009). "Planning Commission Okays ISRO Manned Space Flight Program". Indian Express. p. 2. 
  4. ^ ISRO gets green signal for manned space mission, Science News - By Indiaedunews.net
  5. ^ Ray, Kalyan (4 January 2009). "ISRO gears up for manned space mission". Deccan Herald. Shillong. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Orbital Vehicle Archived 1 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ ISRO eyes a manned Moon mission by 2015, awaiting Govt approval[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Towards an Indian manned flight
  9. ^ Eleventh Five year Plan (2007-12) proprosals for Indian space program
  10. ^ a b Mishra, Bibhu Ranjan (8 October 2008). "ISRO plans manned mission to moon in 2014". Business Standard. Sriharikota Range (SHAR). Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Beary, Habib (27 January 2010). "India announces first manned space mission". Bangalore: BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  12. ^ T.S. Subramanian (2 May 2009), "Model of space crew module ready", The Hindu, Chennai, retrieved 14 June 2013 
  13. ^ Press Trust of India (25 April 2012). "Spaceflight stuck due to budget: CAG". Times of India. New Delhi. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Press Trust of India. "Human space flight mission off ISRO priority list". Retrieved 18 August 2013. 
  15. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Rs-171-crore-boost-to-manned-space-project/articleshow/30591353.cms
  16. ^ "ISRO inches closer to manned mission". Times of India. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. We will be checking the crew capsule for all parameters. 
  17. ^ Human space flight prog: HAL hands over crew module assembly to ISRO Business Line
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ "India to launch unmanned crew module in December". The Economic Times. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  20. ^ GSLV Mark III takes to the skies in test flight The Hindu 19 December 2014
  21. ^ India launches largest rocket and unmanned capsule BBC News 18 December 2014