India to Launch Second Moon Mission on July 15

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India will launch its second moon mission Chandrayaan-2 on July 15 from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh and land its rover on the lunar surface on September 6, a top official said on Wednesday.

“The 3,890kg Chandrayaan-2 mission will be launched on board a heavy rocket from our spaceport at Sriharikota on July 15 at 02.15 a.m., with an orbiter, a lander and a rover,” state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan told reporters here.

Sriharikota is a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh and about 80km northeast of Chennai.

The ambitious mission will make India the fourth nation after then Soviet Union (Russia), the US and China to land and ride on the moon to conduct various experiments in its orbit, surface, around (atmosphere) and beneath.

The cost of Chandrayaan-2 mission is Rs 978 crore, including Rs 375 crore of the indigenous heavy rocket — Geo-stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mark III) with a cryogenic engine.

The mission will have 14 scientific instruments (payloads), including 8 in the orbiter, 4 in the lander and 2 in the rover. One instrument in the rover is passive one from the US space agency — NASA.

ISRO has named the lander “Vikram”, after India’s space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971) and rover “Pragyan”, which in Sanskrit means wisdom.

“The rocket will place the orbiter in the geo-transfer orbit for its voyage to the lunar orbit, covering a whopping 385,000km from earth to moon in 50 days for the lander to have a soft landing near its south pole on September 6,” said Sivan.

The rocket will separate the orbiter minutes after the launch at 170km perigee (nearer to earth) and 38,000km apogee (away from earth) and get into geo transfer orbit for its long journey (385,000km) to the lunar orbit in 16 days and descend to 100km from the lunar surface by September 6.

“The lander will separate from the orbiter through manouvres, when it is at 150km periloon and 18,000 apoloon and land on the moon in 4 days and the rover will come out of it in 4 hours after landing,” Sivan said.

The space agency is integrating the orbiter with the lander and the rover inside the latter for shipping them to Sriharikota on June 18.

Admitting that the mission was complex and challenging for navigating to the moon and injecting the spacecraft (orbiter) into the lunar orbit at 100km from its surface, Sivan said the soft-landing of the rover will be 15 terrifying minutes.

Outlining ISRO’s vision on space science and inter-planetary missions, Sivan said understanding secrets of the inner solar system was an aspiration of both national and international scientific communities.

Launching over a decade after India’s maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008, Chandrayaan-2 has its own scientific objectives, challenges and benefits.

The space agency also showcased to the media the orbiter, lander and rover at its satellite integration and test establishment in the city’s southeast suburb.

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