Saturday, February 19, 2011

India Ramps Up Astronaut Training Capability

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Feb 21 , 2011 , p. 16
Neelam Mathews

NEW DELHI — As India gears up for its first human spaceflight mission in 2017, work is ongoing at the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine to upgrade facilities and equipment for training astronauts, including simulators and environmental chambers.

The institute has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which is outsourcing the training to it.

A $124 million human centrifuge has already been purchased, says Giles Gomez, head of the institute. The centrifuge will help aviation physiologists study the effects of g-stresses and will be used to train astronauts in adapting to space.

“The selection of astronauts is critical. It takes two years of training,” Gomez says.

“The two astronauts will orbit the Earth for a week at between 275 and 400 kilometers from terra firma, juggling scientific experiments and observations while enduring microgravity and other harsh conditions in outer space,” ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan explained last year. “At the end of it, they will touch down in the sea.”

Help is being sought from NASA; but since India and the U.S. still have not signed a space cooperation agreement, it is not clear how much assistance the U.S. space agency will provide.

Boeing has expressed interest in potentially collaborating with ISRO on launch escape systems, vehicle health monitoring, abort triggers, life support, crew accommodations, reusable space systems and composite cryogenic tanks. Lockheed Martin also has shown interest in cooperating with ISRO on India’s human spaceflights.

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