BANGALORE — India’s plans to launch humans into space have been delayed at least “for the next five years,” K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told reporters Sept. 17.

Radhakrishnan said that although the Indian government had sanctioned around 1.5 billion rupees ($28 million) for preproject studies, the project still lacks formal government approval to proceed.

ISRO’s original plan announced in 2006 aimed to put two astronauts in orbit for a week and bring them back safely to Earth. ISRO estimated the mission would cost about $2.5 billion and could be launched in 2014 or 2015. As a precursor to a manned mission, ISRO launched and recovered a 550-kilogram space capsule in 2007.

The following year, ISRO signed an agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, under which Russia would fly an Indian astronaut on a Soyuz spacecraft in 2013 and help with crew selection, training and construction of ISRO’s envisioned three-ton orbiter.

Based in Bangalore, Killugudi S. Jayaraman holds a doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He was formerly science editor of the...