India faces big budget cut for new human spaceflight program

As India prepares to launch its first astronauts into space, the program will proceed under tighter funding than hoped, at least for the time being.

The human spaceflight program of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), called Gaganyaan, received only about 30% of the funds sought by the according to the Times of India. ISRO said it will find a way around the low budget, but details were not provided in the news report.

Gaganyaan is designed to send three crew members into space for five to seven days in a small spacecraft, roughly 10 feet by 11 feet (3 meters by 3.4 m) in diameter. Should India achieve its goal of flying its own astronauts, it will be only the fourth country to do so after the United States, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and China.

The 2020-21 budgetary estimate for Gaganyaan is 4,257 crore (about $639 million), with this figure representing about a third of ISRO’s overall budget. The actual amount the agency is allocated so far for human spaceflight, however, is 1,200 crore ($180.3 million).

While the impact to Gaganyaan is unknown, ISRO has said it will cost about 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) to launch Gaganyaan before Aug. 15, 2022, which is Independence Day in India. In general, human spaceflight programs often deal with reduced budgets in one of two ways: by delaying launches or by making cutbacks within the program to allocate the lesser funding received.

India’s Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change tabled a report Friday (March 9) asking for more funds bringing ISRO up to its original request, the Times added. But whether that will be implemented is unclear.

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