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ISRO all set for the launch of Chandrayaan-3: Here’s all you need to know about India’s third moon mission

Unlike Vikram on Chandrayaan-2, which had five 800 Newtons engines with a fifth one being centrally installed with a fixed thrust, the lander for Chandrayaan-3 will only have four throttle-able engines. The Chandrayaan-3 lander will also be fitted with an LDV or Laser Doppler Velocimeter.

The Chandrayaan-3 project, which is scheduled to launch on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, is India’s third lunar mission and second attempt at a soft landing on the moon. The mission is anticipated to enter the lunar orbit one month after launch and the lander and rover are scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface by August 23.

The launch of Chandrayan 3 has come four years after the partial failure of the Chandrayaan-2, whose lander Vikram and rover Pragyaan crashed on the Moon’s surface in the early hours of September 7, 2019.

Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Dr. Jitendra Singh commented on the project on July 12 and said that Chandrayaan-3 will open up new Moon vistas for the world. Dr Singh stated that India’s earlier mission, Chandrayaan-1 had thrown up new light on various aspects of moon research, and for the first time brought before the world the evidence of the presence of water on the surface of the moon.

He asserted in an interview with ET (Economic Times) Governance that Chandrayaan 3 is being viewed by people all throughout the world with great hope and expectation. The Minister declared that the Chandrayaan-3 mission takes the march to the Moon one step closer and shows that India is keeping pace with other nations. According to him, this mission is special since it is going to observe Earth from the Moon in addition to observing the Moon from the Moon. According to Dr. Singh, 389 of India’s 424 foreign satellite launches to date have occurred in the past nine years under the current government.

India’s third lunar mission, which cost over Rs 615 crores, aims to place the lander successfully on the moon’s surface and then send out a rover to conduct multiple experiments.

What will Chandrayaan-3 do?

The Chandrayaan-3 mission will send scientific equipment to the moon in order to investigate its elemental composition, surface plasma environment, lunar seismicity, and thermophysical features. The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft in March successfully finished the crucial tests required to confirm its ability to withstand the severe vibration and acoustic vibration that it will experience during launch.

In comparison to the previous lander used in the Chandrayaan-2 mission, the one being utilized for the Chandrayaan-3 mission has undergone an assortment of changes. The redesigned lander will now only have four motors instead of five, and certain software modifications have also been implemented.

Chandrayaan 3 Mission profile (ISRO)

Chandrayaan-2 was launched on July 22, 2019, and took 48 days to reach the moon’s surface. However, the Vikram lunar lander crashed on Moon’s surface on September 6, 2019. It is not clear yet whether ISRO will continue to keep the names similar to that of the previous lander and rover, i.e. Vikram and Pragyan respectively.

The Spectro-polarimetry of the Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload is a significant addition to Chandrayaan-3. The tools’ purpose is to analyze spectral and polarimetric readings of Earth taken from the lunar orbit.

According to reports, ISRO has identified three key goals for the Chandrayaan-3 mission. These goals include accomplishing a safe and gentle landing on the Moon, displaying the rover’s mobility on the lunar surface, and performing on-site scientific studies.

What went wrong with Chandrayaan-2?

On the day of landing in 2019, Vikram was only 335 meters (0.335 km) from the Moon’s surface when the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with it. According to the preliminary data, the malfunction took place during the “Fine braking phase” of Vikram’s last approach (an altitude of 5 km to 400 m), which began while the lander was 5 km from the lunar surface.

The massive panels in the center displayed that the lander’s green line began to deviate from the course when it was just over 2 km in altitude, continued to deviate from the course, and finally stopped at a place that was clearly below 1 km in altitude and somewhere close or below 500 m.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath spoke to media over the incident that happened in 2019 and said, “The primary issues were, one, we had five engines which were used to give the reduction of the velocity, which is called the retardation. These engines developed higher thrust than what was expected.” He said that the additional thrust caused errors to build up, which in turn made the lander less stable during the “camera coasting phase” of the soft landing.

This was an instance of the second problem. “All the errors got accumulated, which was on the higher side than what we had expected. The craft had to make very fast turns. When it started to turn very fast, its ability to turn was limited by the software because we never expected such high rates to come,” Somanath added.

The third issue arose when the lander increased its speed despite being near the surface because the landing place was far away. According to Somanath, this was partially caused by the landing spot’s relatively tiny size (500 m × 500 m). “In a nutshell, the problem in Chandrayaan-2 was that the ability to handle parameter dispersion was very limited,” he was quoted as saying.

Chandrayaan-3 comprises three main components

Propulsion module: The lander and rover configuration will be propelled by the propulsion module up to a 100-kilometer lunar orbit. It is a box-like structure with one sizable solar panel positioned on one side and a sizable cylinder serving as the lander’s mounting structure on top (the Intermodular Adapter Cone). The module also includes a payload dubbed ‘Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE)’ that will measure Earth’s spectral and polarimetric properties from an orbit around the moon.

Lander: The lander is appointed to ensure a soft landing on the Moon. The box-shaped lander has four landing legs and four landing thrusters of 800 newtons each. It is expected to be equipped with the rover and different tools for in-situ analysis.

Chandrayaan-3 Lander (ISRO)

Rover: The rover is a portable lab that will go across the lunar surface, gather samples, and examine the Moon’s geology and chemistry. It comprises a six-wheel rocker-bogie wheel drive arrangement and a rectangular chassis.

Chandrayaan-3 Rover (ISRO)

Unlike Vikram on Chandrayaan-2, which had five 800 Newtons engines with a fifth one being centrally installed with a fixed thrust, the lander for Chandrayaan-3 will only have four throttle-able engines. The Chandrayaan-3 lander will also be fitted with an LDV or Laser Doppler Velocimeter.

Compared to Chandrayaan-2, the impact legs are now stronger, and instrument redundancy has been increased. ISRO is focusing on increasing structural stiffness and incorporating numerous backup mechanisms.

Funding for the Chandrayaan-3 project

According to a report from December 2019, ISRO had asked for initial funding for the project for Rs 75 crore, of which 60 crore would be used to cover costs for machinery, equipment, and other capital expenditures, and the remaining 15 crore would fall under the heading of revenue expenditures.

Former ISRO chairman K. Sivan then confirmed the project’s existence and estimated that the project would cost about Rs 615 crore in 2023. 

Notably, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday, July 11 completed the launch rehearsal of the Chandrayaan-3 mission. The spacecraft will be launched by the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3).

Conclusion

Chandrayaan 3 is not just India’s ambitious lunar mission, but also an excellent opportunity for multinational collaboration. Several nations and space agencies have expressed that they are interested in cooperating with India to exchange expertise, resources, and also scientific aspirations. This joint endeavor will promote knowledge sharing and accelerate the growth of lunar science.

Chandrayaan 3 encounters numerous identical challenges that space exploration generally does so. The mission necessitates exact engineering, faultless execution, and flexibility in the face of unforeseen challenges. India’s space scientists and engineers are constantly working on innovative initiatives to overcome these difficulties and open the way for upcoming moon missions.

Chandrayaan 3 is an example of India’s ongoing effort to achieve scientific excellence in space exploration. The project holds great promise for advancing our knowledge of the Moon and beyond with its goals focused on lunar exploration, technical improvements, and international cooperation. The world is eagerly anticipating the discoveries and revelations that Chandrayaan 3 will make as it travels through space to reach the lunar surface. 

If the launch takes place as scheduled on July 14, the landing on the lunar surface is most likely to take place on August 23 or 24. India’s third moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, is scheduled to be launched on July 14, 2023, at 2.35 p.m. from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

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Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

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