India speeds up progress on its Moon mission
India has begun intensifying work on its second lunar probe, called Chandrayaan-2, an advanced version of the agency’s previous successful Chandrayaan spacecraft. The mission will include an orbiter and a lander-rover module and is scheduled to be launched at the end of 2017 / start of 2018 via a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have recently started working to speed up activities on the design of the mission. ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) has completed the configuration study for the Chandrayaan-2 and the work to integrate the mission’s elements has begun.
Chandrayaan-2’s configuration changes were applied to the orbiter for accommodating the indigenous lander. The spacecraft’s high-resolution camera was also configured to accurately provide high-quality images of the landing site area before the separation of the lander from the orbiter. The scientists have identified both the landing strategies for a soft landing on the lunar surface and new technologies required for the lander. The engineering model of the six-wheeled rover has been designed and tested at the lunar terrain test facility. SAC is also developing an HD video camera for both the lander and the rover.
The mission will carry five scientific instruments on the orbiter. Three of which are new, while two others are improved versions of those flown on Chandrayaan-1. The payloads and sensors onboard the orbiter, lander, and rover are currently at various stages of development.
“The science goals of the mission are to further improve the understanding of origin and evolution of the moon using instruments onboard orbiter and in-situ analysis of lunar samples using the lander and the rover,” an ISRO official told Deccan Herald.
Initially, the mission was to be a joint Indian-Russian project, but Russia withdrew after the failure of the nation’s Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars’ moon Phobos. The spacecraft was to be launched in 2014, with an orbiter made by ISRO and a lander made by the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos. Following a cost analysis, Russia gave up on their rover in May of 2010 and India decided to develop the lunar mission independently.
The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, lander, and rover would be launched as a composite stack into the Earth Parking Orbit (EPO). The orbiter, weighing 1.4 metric tons, would then boost the stack towards the Moon to achieve Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI). The lander would separate from the orbiter in lunar orbit.
During the landing, the lander’s main engine will bring the spacecraft to hover at approximately 1.2 miles above the lunar surface and then shut down. The lander will soft land at a specified site in the polar region of the Moon and deploy the rover. The scientific payloads onboard the orbiter, lander, and rover are expected to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface. The data will be relayed to Earth through the orbiter.
The rover’s mass will be about 65–210 pounds (29–95 kilograms) and will operate on solar power. It is planned to be operational for at least 14 days.
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