Crewed Capsules of other nations

Other Crewed capsules

Crewed capsules are capsules that fly to put humans into space. Three nations have successfully brought astronauts to space and returned them safely. These nations are Russia, the US, and China. At the moment, India is on its way to becoming the fourth nation to perform this engineering feat. Other nations have proposed crewed capsules but were eventually cancelled. These nations include Iran, Japan and Europe. This page also includes capsules developed by independent companies, not for a nation.


Operator: ISRO

Mission:  Bring astronauts to LEO

First flight:  2024 (uncrewed, planned)

Status:  In development

The Gaganyaan capsule is the ISRO's crewed capsule set to fly in 2024 for an orbital demonstration mission. The capsule is equipped with a cluster of two drogues and two main parachutes. The main parachutes themselves are about as large as the Soyuz main parachute and are redundant. This is a different approach from the Soyuz capsule, where a smaller backup parachute is stored but not used. During the pad abort test one can clearly see two parachutes being deployed. However, during the in-flight abort test this was increased to three parachutes. 

The re-entry capabilities were tested in 2014 with the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-Entry Experiment (CARE). In 2018 the pad abort capabilities of Ganganyaan were successfully tested. At the moment, the first crewed flight is planned for 2024 with an unnamed crew. The crew has been trained by Roscomos and will receive the specific Gaganyaan training in India. 

Before the first crewed flight, three uncrewed flights will be done in 2024. Before these test flights, two inflight abort tests will be done with using one of the boosters of GSLV to an altitude of 11 km. 

Pad abort test of the Gaganyaan spacecraft 


Operator: Iran

Mission:  Bring astronauts to LEO

First flight:  2011 (uncrewed)

Status:  In development? On hold 

With the first launch in 2010, Iran launched two turtles and one rodent onto a suborbital trajectory. A year later, in 2011, Iran launched the second capsule to an altitude of 135 km. This rocket was empty but carried all the hardware to launch a monkey. The next flight in September 2011 with a monkey failed, probably killing its crew. This led to a gap of about two years in the Iranian launch program. In 2013 Iran successfully launched a monkey to space and brought it back safely. A second launch was performed in December 2013. There are now plans to continue the efforts and fly suborbital crewed missions. However, due to sanctions, this is currently on hold. 

The Iranian capsule consists of a single-passenger capsule with a parachute system. The parachute includes a drogue and a main parachute, with a backup main parachute. 


Operator: Japan

Mission:  Bring astronauts to LEO

First flight:  Unflown

Status:  Cancelled

Fuji might be one of the weirder crewed capsules. The 3.7m wide capsule is only about 1.5m high. The capsule would have been launched on a JAXA H-II rocket to an orbit of about 200km high for a maximum duration of 24 hours. This is much lower than other crewed missions, and its main purpose would have been for commercial touristic flights. Here the rather weird shape came in handy as the capsule could re-enter at a high angle of attack, reducing the decelerations during re-entry to a maximum of about 4g. The capsule would have deployed a parafoil system to steer to the desired landing location. 

Fuji crewed capsule

Fuji spacecraft in orbit


Operator: ESA/Roscosmos

Mission:  Bring astronauts to LEO

First flight:  Unflown

Status:  Cancelled

The Crew Space Transportation System or CSTS was a proposed capsule between Europe and Russia. The capsule was a direct answer to the US Orion capsule. The vehicle could have been used to fly beyond LEO. The design team decided that the development of a new launch vehicle would be too expensive. This resulted in a tight mass budget to allow the capsule to fly onboard Ariane 5, Angara or Proton. This resulted in lunar missions requiring three separate launches to bring the required hardware into lunar orbit. In November 2008 the project was shut down as funding was reduced to a feasibility study. It is somewhat unclear what happened and why funding was reduced. Both parties continued with their research leading to the Russian Orel vehicle and the European ACTS. The latter was an evolution of the ATV resupply vehicles used for the ISS. Even though it seems like the ACTS will never fly, elements of the work have found their way into the NASA Orion program as the European service module. 


CSTS (top) and ACTS (left). The CSTS clearly shows the ATV on the top with a newly developed capsule in the middle. The ACTS shows the Orel capsule in the middle


Nova mk2

Operator: Starchaser Industries

First flight: -

Status: Cancelled

The UK company Starchaser participated in the X-price organised in 2004. The goal was to launch a crewed suborbital flight twice in one week. The Starchaser followed a fairly conventional rocket approach, but the landing was very interesting. 

Following a conventional round drogue parachute, a parafoil was deployed. This parafoil could be steered back to a desirable landing location. Under the capsule was a set of landing wheels that would be used for the final phase of the flight. After the touchdown, the parafoil was cut away and the capsule could freely come to a stop. The only drop test performed can be seen in the video on the right. The capsule is dropped from a C-123 at an altitude of 14.000 feet (4267 meters) over the Red Lake Drop Zone in Kingman, Arizona. The test validated not only the parachute and landing system but also the navigation system.

Black Armadillo

Operator: Armadillo Aerospace

First flight: -

Status: Cancelled

Black Armadillo was Armadillo Aerospace’s attempt at the Ansari X-Prize. It was a 9 meters tall mono-propellant rocket powered by a mix of Hydrogen Peroxide and Methanol. The rocket had a diameter of 1.83 meters and had a dry weight of 770 kg. The rocket didn’t use fins and a thrust vector control system using jet vanes. The rocket was designed to be recoverable and (partially) reusable. It had a two-stage recovery system with a drogue and main parachute. The drogue deceleration was limited to 5 g as the ultimate goal was to be manned. The main chutes were deployed at an altitude of 3 km with a backup chute available. The terminal velocity of the vehicle was 8m/s and a crushable aluminium nosecone was used to soften the impact.

Black Armadillo crewed capsule