CNES to Provide Training, Equipment for India’s Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight Program

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

BANGALORE, India (CNES PR) — On Thursday April 15, 2020, as part of the trip to India of Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, CNES and ISRO, the Indian space agency, announced in Bangalore, at the human spaceflight center, a new space cooperation agreement. France will participate in the Indian Gaganyaan manned space flight program.

The first space agreement between France and India dates from 1964. The partnerships established cover almost all areas of space activity. As a reminder, it is in 2021 that ISRO will launch the OCEANSAT 3-ARGOS joint oceanographic mission. With this new agreement, France will participate in the great technological and human challenge represented by the Gaganyaan program.

The Gaganyaan project, an orbital vehicle, was initiated in August 2018. It consists of sending an astronaut from Indian soil for the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2022. The test flights will carry a humanoid robot equipped with sensors. The capsule will reach a 400 km orbit for a 7-day flight, before landing in the Arabian Sea off Ahmedabad.

ISRO asked CNES to participate in the preparation of the Gaganyaan missions and to be its single European contact in this field. Under the terms of the agreement, CNES will train flight doctors and CAPCOM mission control teams in France. This service will be carried out in Toulouse at the CADMOS development and control center of CNES and at the European Astronaut Training Center in Cologne. 

The agreement provides for CNES support for the implementation of a scientific experimentation plan on validation missions, the exchange of information on the packaging of foodstuffs and the nutrition program and especially the use by Indian astronauts with French equipment, consumables and medical instrumentation.  Thus, French equipment developed by CNES, tested and still in operation in the International Space Station, will be made available to Indian astronauts. 

Thomas Pesquet, who will fly back to the station on April 22, as part of the Alpha mission, had experimented with this equipment during his first flight. Finally, CNES will provide fire-retardant transport kits made in France to protect the equipment from shocks and radiation.

This cooperation could extend in the future to parabolic flights, carried out by NOVESPACE for the testing of instruments and the training of astronauts, as well as to technical support for the construction of an astronaut training center in Bangalore. In the long term, ISRO would like to benefit from a transfer of experience on long flights, as part of the development of an Indian space station.