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Indian Space Exploration: Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission Launch Expected In April 2019

A digital rendering of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander. Image courtesy of ISRO.

India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, will be attempted in mid-April 2019, a senior Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official said on 11 January 2019. Chandrayaan-2 will comprise a lander and a lunar rover.

“We are targeting mid-April to launch Chandrayaan-2 as there were certain tests which could not be done in time for the earlier scheduled January 3 launch,” ISRO’s chairman, Dr. K. Sivan, told reporters in India.

The details of the tests, which were yet to be performed for the mission, were not mentioned by Dr. Sivan or other space agency officials. The window to launch from India and land on the lunar surface is possible between 25 March through to the end of April 2019, Dr. Sivan said.

The U.S.$2.17 billion Chandrayaan-2 mission will launch just over ten years after the Chandrayaan-1 mission was launched on 22 October 2008 from India’s only spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 kilometres northeast of Chennai.

The 3,890-kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, to be launched onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III, will orbit around the Moon to study its conditions and collect data on its topography, mineralogy, and exosphere.

After reaching a 100km lunar orbit, the Chandrayaan-2 lander, with the rover on board, will separate from the spacecraft and slowly descend to make a soft landing on the Moon at its designated spot. The Chandrayaan-2 rover will then deploy and its instruments will observe and study the lunar surface.

The lander has been named Vikram as a tribute to one of the pioneers of India’s space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, a former ISRO chairman from 1963 until 1971.

Chandrayaan-1 reached lunar orbit on 8 November 2008 and its impact probe crashed onto the Moon’s surface on 14 November 2008. Subsequently, the 675kg spacecraft was lost on 29 August 2009 after orbiting at 100 kilometres above the lunar surface and mapping its chemical, mineralogical, and photo-geologic properties for over nine months.

Israel is planning to launch its lunar lander mission in February 2019, and, if successful, will most likely be the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon, after China in December 2013, and the United States and the Soviet Union both in 1966. If the Chandrayaan-2 mission is launched in mid-April 2019, and successfully lands on the lunar surface, India will become the fifth country in history to make a soft landing on the Moon.

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