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Home / Science / India's first lunar lander stacked for launch – Spaceflight Now

India's first lunar lander stacked for launch – Spaceflight Now



The Vikram DropShip and the Pragyan Rover of the Chandrayaan 2 Mission are being prepared for launch at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the East Coast of India. Credit: ISRO

India's first lunar module was placed on the GSLV Mk.3 rocket ahead of Sunday's launch.

Launch aboard India's most powerful rocket – the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.3 – will embark on a nearly two-month voyage through ever higher orbits around the Earth and eventually into the Moon's orbit before a powerful descent to the lunar surface begins on September 6th ,

The Chandrayaan 2 mission consists of three components – an Orbiter module, DropShip, and Mobile Rover launch together with the GSLV Mk.3 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the southeast coast of India, the country's only spaceport on the island of Sriharikota. About 80 kilometers north of Chennai 2121 GMT (17:21 EDT) Sunday, and the GSLV Mk.3 will bring the spacecraft Chandrayaan 2 into an elliptical transfer orbit that spans 40,400 kilometers above the earth.

The launch is scheduled for 2:51 am on Monday local time in India.

"The Chandrayaan 2 mission contains three components, the Rover, which weighs only 27 kilograms, and we have a lander that weighs 1.4 tons)," said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization. "This rover is in the lander, and the lander is on an orbiter. The orbiter is 2.4 tons.

"The entire composite module has a mass of about 3.8 tons," Sivan said.

The Chandrayaan 2-spacecraft is completely stacked before encapsulation in the GSLV Mk .3 payload fairing. Credit: ISRO

Chandrayaan 2 is India's first lunar landing mission and the country's second robot mission to the moon after launching the Chandrayaan 1 orbiter in October 2008.

The launch Sunday will take place two days before the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11.

If the landing is successful, India will be the fourth nation after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China to achieve a controlled soft landing on the Moon. Israeli non-profit SpaceIL attempted to land on the Moon in April with the Beresheet mission, but the privately funded probe crashed on the final descent.

Chandrayaan 2 is closer to home country site at about 71 degrees south latitude The south pole of the Moon is about 350 kilometers from the edge of the South Pole Aitken Basin than any other mission.

Scientists believe that the extensive basin region is one of the oldest impact points in the solar system created when a large asteroid or comet hit the moon billions of years ago.

For the first time, Chandrayaan's Rover 2 was able to study ancient material in the lunar crust that was ejected from the South Pole collision with the Aitken Basin, and provide data that could provide clues to the chaotic early history of the solar system. The Pragyan rover is equipped with an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer capable of measuring the elemental composition of the Chandrayaan 2 landing pad and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope (top left) at the top of the orbiter segment (right) during takeoff preparations last month. One half of the payload fairing of the GSLV Mk.3 can be seen in the background. Credit: ISRO

China made its first soft landing on the other side of the Moon in the mid-latitudes of the southern hemisphere in the South Pole Aitken Basin in January. The stationary lander and stationary rover of the Chang # 4 mission are still operational.

However, Chang'e 4 did not have an X-ray spectrometer to obtain elemental measurements of the lunar crust. The presence of such an instrument aboard Chandrayaan 2 could be a blessing to lunar geologists.

The Chandrayaan 2 Lander, called Vikram, and the orbiter component of the mission each use five scientific payloads. The instruments include spectrometers, radars, plasma sensors and cameras.

The Chandrayaan 2 DropShip also carries a NASA-provided passive retro-reflector laser that allows precise measurements between the Earth and the Moon, and may become a node in a Moon navigation network as a guide to future missions.

The Orbiter and Lander segments of Chandrayaan 2 hit a Rao Satellite Center in Bengaluru in mid-June on the UR launch pad. On June 29, the ground crews at the launch site built the Rover into the DropShip and stacked the lander on the Orbiter module.

The engineers conducted radio frequency tests on July 2 using the Chandrayaan 2-spacecraft and encapsulated the probe on the payload fairing of the GSLV Mk.3, the nose cone of the rocket.

Chandrayaan 2s orbiter module. Credit: ISRO

ISRO teams deployed the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft on July 4 on the GSLV Mk.3 rocket, and the fully assembled vehicle rolled on Sunday on the second launch pad in Sriharikota. The launch team held a dress rehearsal on Monday and technicians worked on the vehicle's pyrotechnic devices on Tuesday, which were used for larger takeoff and separation events during the flight.

The launch will be the third orbital flight of the Indian GSLV Mk.3 and the first operational mission of the rocket after two test flights in 2017 and 2018.

Originally, the Chandrayaan 2 mission was used by Indian officials to fly with the smaller GSLV Mk.2 rocket deployed year to switch to larger launcher.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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