Wednesday, August 8, 2018

India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission Slips to 2019

A model of Chandrayaan-2’s rover undergoing tests. Photo Credit: ISRO

Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to the Moon is being delayed one more time, according to Indian media outlets. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) now targets January 2019 for the launch.

As part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, ISRO plans to send to the Moon an orbiter, a lander, and a six-wheeled 44-pound (20-kilogram) rover. The launch of the mission was initially targeted for April 2018 but was postponed to October 2018. Now, the new reports from India are saying that the launch will not be conducted till yearend.

According to NDTV, M. Annadurai, the Director of ISRO’s U. R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) confirmed that the liftoff of Chandrayaan-2 is slipping to 2019. He added that the launch is now planned for January, while the lunar landing should take place in February.

However, some Indian media like The Hindu suggest that the January 2019 launch date is uncertain, citing an anonymous source from the industry. The official said that the next launch window for the mission will likely be in January, adding how much crucial for ISRO is Chandrayaan-2.

“We don’t want to take any risk,” he noted, referring apparently to latest setbacks that ISRO suffered from - PSLV-C39 launch failure in August 2017 and loss of communications with the GSAT-6A satellite in April 2018.

Another decision made by ISRO to reschedule the launch seems to confirm that India needs more time to conduct additional tests of the orbiter, lander and rover in order to minimize the risk of potential failure.

ISRO plans to launch the mission from the Second Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). Annadurai revealed that the Mk III variant of this rocket will be employed for this launch, contrary to previous media reports suggesting GSLV in Mk II configuration.

Chandrayaan-2’s main goal is to demonstrate the soft-landing capability. If successful, it will make India the fourth country to land a spacecraft of the moon after US, Soviet Union and China. The mission is also scheduled to collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter is slated to be inserted into a 62-mile (100-kilometer) lunar orbit from where it would release the lander for a soft landing on the lunar surface. The lander would then deploy the rover that would move around near the landing site in a semi-autonomous mode for about two weeks, observing the lunar surface and analyzing the lunar soil.

India’s first mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1, was operating in lunar orbit between October 2008 and August 2009. The goal of the mission was to study the chemical, mineralogical, and photo-geologic makeup of the Moon.