The French national space agency National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), which is collaborating with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the Gaganyaan project, will also partner with the latter in the development of India’s planned space station.
A CNES official, speaking on behalf of the president of CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall, told The New Indian Express that the French agency and its industry partners have gained vast experience from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and its spin-offs such as rendezvous operations with the International Space Station (ISS). “French and European partners can bring the skills they have acquired in developing and operating systems and dedicated infrastructure for long-term six-month flights of European astronauts on the ISS,” he said.
While reiterating support for the Gaganyaan missions, he termed it as "the first step towards future collaboration on the development of India’s planned space station". "We want cooperation between France and India in human spaceflight to evolve into a long-term partnership along the same lines as our 15-year collaboration on climate-monitoring satellites and 50 years of working together on launchers," Le Gall said.
“We have confidence in ISRO’s ability to partner in human space exploration and we are ready to provide all the support we can to develop the space station. This also means India should be closely involved in the future international space station programmes that will succeed ISS, commensurate with its place in the world”, he said at an event organised by ISRO in the city recently.
French experts may train Indian astronauts ::
Meanwhile, teams of CNES and ISRO have finalised drafting the agreement between the two space agencies in which French experts are likely to provide training to Indian astronauts. They are likely to be trained by Novespace, a CNES subsidiary, on parabolic flights aboard the Air Zero Gravity, which is a modified version of an Airbus A310, a CNES official said. This will provide the astronauts a zero-gravity environment on Earth.
Expert services will be provided at CADMOS (the control centre in charge of operating the science and physiological experiments on the ISS) at MEDES space medicine research facility and hospital, in collaboration with ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC). The CADMOS conceives and prepares the instruments and equipment that Europe’s astronauts use on the ISS, the official said.
The four Indian astronauts are set to go to Russia’s Star City for training, ISRO Chairman K Sivan had told TNIE. The training is said to last for a year (2021) before they return to India for another round of training.
The CNES will also provide India equipment for life support that astronauts will wear during Gaganyaan, scheduled for 2022. They will be using several French devices for health monitoring — eyewear device featuring a bluetooth connected garment which is equipped with biomedical sensors, aquapad cotton for quick and easy testing of water, specific equipment for waste management, or even food packaging.
They may even use other devices such as the ECHO, an ultrasound system tele-operated by doctors on the ground, or the Cardiomed to measure cardiovascular activity. CNES expert Dr Brigitte Godard has already spent time during July and August in Bengaluru to train physicians and personnel, said the official.
The Indian physicians and engineers involved in Gaganyaan will also be trained in France in the coming months. Training sessions will be for two weeks each, with teams coming and going. The training will be given at MEDES space medicine and physiology institute in Toulouse and by the teams at ESA’s astronaut training centre in Cologne.