Cryogenic Engine for Human Spaceflight Mission Gaganyaan Tested Successfully

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on Wednesday that the key cryogenic engine, which will be used on board the LVM3 launch vehicle for India’s Gaganyaan missions, has been successfully tested and certified for missions that will transport humans into space.

Mission Gaganyaan: Indians to Space

Gaganyaan is India’s first proposed human spaceflight mission. The mission aims to send a crew of three members into an orbit of 400km for three days before bringing them back to Earth.

As part of this program, two unmanned missions and one manned mission have been approved by the Indian government. The first unmanned Gaganyaan-1 mission is scheduled for mid-2024. ISRO’s heavy-lift launcher, the LVM, will be used for the Gaganyaan missions. It consists of solid, liquid, and cryogenic stages that can be configured to transport humans into space.

The objective of the Gaganyaan mission is to lay the foundation of India’s space exploration and build India’s capacity to undertake human spaceflights.

On February 14, the High Altitude Test Facility in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, conducted the seventh vacuum test on the CE20 cryogenic engine. This engine is responsible for powering the vehicle during the cryogenic stage of its lift-off. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shared on its ‘X’ handle on Wednesday that this achievement represents a significant milestone in the human-rating of CE20 for Gaganyaan missions.

The CE20 engine underwent 39 different hot firing tests with varying operating conditions, which lasted a total of 8,810 seconds (2 hours and 26 minutes). To meet the human rating requirement, a minimum standard time of 6,350 seconds (1 hour and 45 minutes) is mandated. According to ISRO, the acceptance tests for the flight engine chosen for the first Gaganyaan mission have been successfully completed. This flight engine has a thrust capacity of 19-22 tonnes and an impulse of 442.5 seconds, and it powers the upper stages of the LVM3.


Part of the proposed human-space flight mission involves developing a launch vehicle that is capable of carrying humans. This requires several tests and technology development efforts. The development of life support systems is also underway to provide a safe environment for the crew in space, while provisions for crew emergency escapes are being developed and tested. Crew management aspects for training, recovery, and rehabilitation of crew are also being worked upon in tandem with other nations. In addition, precursor missions are being planned to demonstrate the technology preparedness levels ahead of the actual manned Gaganyaan mission.

The success of the Gaganyaan mission will place India in an elite club of countries with human spaceflight capability. Currently, only the USA, Russia, and China have the capability to send humans to space and bring them back safely. A successful will prove to be a scientific breakthrough that will provide a boost to Indian foreign policy and inspire the youth towards a career in science and technology. It can stimulate growth of space-related industries and job creation, contributing to India’s overall development.


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