Human Space Launch
Orbital Human Space Launch
During 2017, Russia was the only nation that launched humans into orbit. Russia continued providing its service, ferrying passengers to the International Space Station (ISS). Of the…
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In 2014, Russia operated the only crewed vehicle currently serving the ISS, and it is expected to retain that monopoly through 2017, when the first flights of the new NASA-supported commercially developed vehicles are slated to begin. Russia’s current crewed spacecraft is the Soyuz, a vehicle that made its first flight in 1967 and has been upgraded several times in the ensuing decades. Advances in construction techniques and computer technology have resulted in a craft that is more maneuverable, lighter, and has a greater carrying capacity than earlier versions.
Since 2011, the year the Space Shuttle was retired, the United States has not been able to launch astronauts aboard U.S. vehicles. To send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has relied on contracts with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, buying seats every year on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Rising seat prices and political developments in Ukraine increased pressure on NASA to provide indigenously manufactured spacecraft quickly.
In 2006, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced plans to develop a human-rated version of its proposed GSLV Mark 3 vehicle. The vehicle, whose maiden launch is proposed for 2015, would be capable of carrying a crew capsule to LEO. Additionally, in January 2007, ISRO successfully launched and retrieved the Space Recovery Experiment, the nation’s first recoverable spacecraft, demonstrating the reentry and recovery technologies required for a future human-rated spacecraft.
Although Japan and India have both expressed interest in developing human spaceflight capabilities, neither has yet demonstrated strong commitment toward that goal. Japan is in early stage feasibility studies for its own crewed spacecraft, which would not be expected to fly before 2022. India identifies development of a human spaceflight program as an objective within its Five-Year Plan. However, specific details are sparse; India just states that it will focus on development of the technologies and systems necessary to support a human spaceflight program at some point.