Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is set to launch its second lunar probe in March 2018. The unmanned mission, codenamed Chandrayaan 2, includes a lunar orbiter, lander and rover, all built by ISRO. It will be launched to the Moon on a GSLV Mk II (short for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The first lunar mission was launched in October 2008, which operated for almost 1 year, until 2009. Although it was intended to be operational for 2 years, the mission achieved 95% of its planned objectives.
Chandrayaan 2 will be used to conduct new experiments and test numerous new technologies. The rover will perform on-site chemical examination and data will be transmitted to Earth via orbiter. What else will be the focus of this mission, what’s the total budget, the design, the payload, we have covered it all below.
Design And Plans
The main aim of the mission is to demonstrate the soft landing capability. It will collect scientific information on lunar mineralogy, topology, elemental abundance, exosphere and traces of water ice and hydroxyl.
The orbiter will be inserted into 100 kilometer moon orbit, from where lander will be released to reach the moon’s surface. Then, lander will release the rover on site in a semi-autonomous mode for around 15 days, which will scrutinize lunar soil.
Chandrayaan-2 lander and rover | Images Credit: ISRO
The orbiter would carry 5 instruments (2 are improved versions of what used in Chandrayaan 1). The total launch mass will be around 1,400 kilograms. The OHRC (Orbiter High Resolution Camera) will capture images of landing site before the separation of lander.
Talking about lander, it would weigh around 1,200 kilograms and equipped with technologies such as, hazard avoidance, high resolution, navigation camera, 800 Newton liquid main engine, accelerometer, and software required to operate these modules.
Chandrayaan-2 rover | Images Credit: ISRO
The rover will weigh around 20 kilograms and will be powered by solar energy. It will have a stereoscopic camera-based 3D vision, Kinematic traction control, 6 wheels and 10 electric motors for steering and traction.
ISRO is known for its impressive low-cost mission. In 2013, they launched Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission), with a ridiculously tight budget of $74 million for the entire project. That’s even cheaper than the Hollywood sci-fi movie, ‘The Martian’ ($108 million).
As of December 2015, Chandrayaan 2 has an allocated cost of $91 million.
What’s In the Payload
There will 5 payloads for the orbiter and 2 for the rover. The rocket will fly with dozens of advanced instruments, including
- L and S band Synthetic Aperture Radar for checking the different constituents present on lunar surface, such as water ice.
- Neutral Mass Spectrometer for studying the lunar exosphere.
- Imaging IR spectrometer to map lunar surface over a wide wavelength range for examining hydroxyl and water molecules.
- Alpha Particle Induced X-ray Spectroscope and Laser induced Breakdown Spectroscope.
- Solar X-ray monitor and Soft X-ray Spectrometer to map larger elements on the moon’s surface.
- Thermal probe and Langmuir probe to estimate thermal properties and measuring density of lunar surface plasma.
- Seismometer to examine moon quakes and Radio occultation to measure total electron content.
Because of the weight restriction, ISRO will not carry any foreign payloads on this mission.
Chandrayaan-2 mission trajectory
The GSLV will put the spacecraft into an elliptical Earth parking orbit, expanding it over weeks with periapsis burns to increase the orbit apogee. Finally, apogee will reach to a point from where slight direction can send the Chandrayaan 2 onto a lunar transfer trajectory. The lunar orbit insertion burn will put the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit and it will start braking at periapsis in order to decrease its orbit to a hundred kilometer circle.
The lander will determine the suitable trajectory essential to bring it to landing site, and steer itself to an attitude of 100 meters. Hazard avoidance sensor will be used to map the potential hazards of the surface and select a safe landing site. Then, the lander will gradually come down until it reaches the height of 2 meters above surface. It will shut down the engine and fall to the surface. The four lander legs will absorb the landing shock, making the landing safe. Eventually, lander will release the rover and from here, rover will begin functioning.
Morover, liftoff will take place at the ISRO’s launch site Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Andhra Pradesh, India. In coming months, the space agency will start one of the final and most complex testing phases for this mission, integrating all modules.
Other Countries On Moon
Till date, no other country has beaten the United States, the only country to land people on the moon. A total of 12 US astronauts have landed on the Moon. Gene Cernan was the last man to step off the lunar surface in 1972.
Soviet Union was the one who sent the first spacecraft to lunar surface on 14 September 1959. Apart from this, European Space Agency, Indian Space and Research Organization, China National Space Administration and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have successfully sent their rockets to the Moon.
India will be the first country in the last 4 years to attempt the lunar mission. The last successful moon landing was attempted by China’s unmanned rover, named ‘Yutu’. It operated for 2 years 7 months (ceased on 31 July, 2016), well beyond its intended lifespan of 3 months.