Aiming for the Moon with Chandrayaan - 3: A Crucial Step for India’s Future Moon Missions



On July 14, India is set to launch a spacecraft with a lunar lander on board. With this India will join the US, the former Soviet Union, and China as the only other nations to have successfully completed a controlled lunar landing if the mission is a success. This happens to be the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) second attempt of launching a probe on the Moon with the six billion-rupee ($73-million) Chandrayaan-3 mission.

The date of Isro's third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3 (Ch-3) is set to take off on July 12 almost four years after its first unsuccessful attempt to make a spacecraft land on the lunar surface, which is also its main goal. The Chandrayaan-2 mission's lander and rover malfunctioned in the mission's closing minutes, crashed, and were obliterated in the process in 2019.

Chandrayaan-3 will launch a lander and rover to a location close to the Moon's south pole from the spaceport of Sriharikota, off the east coast of India. ISRO scientists hope to deploy the rover to explore the Moon's features when the craft touches down. If the mission is successful, it will be the first to set down close to the south pole; earlier Moon expeditions have settled at lower latitudes.

Objective of this Mission

Back in 2019 when the Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched, its objective was landing a rover on the lunar South Pole, and now with Chandrayaan - 3 that project is set in motion again.

With the Vikram lander's subsequent failure, a new mission was created to demonstrate the landing techniques needed for the 2024 lunar polar exploration mission that was planned in cooperation with Japan.


This time there will be an orbiter and a landing module. But unlike Chandrayaan-2, this orbiter won't have a scientific payload.

In fact, its only tasks will be to send the lander to the moon, keep in contact with the earth station, and observe the touchdown from orbit.

With that goal in mind, ISRO created this spacecraft to highlight India's capability with soft landings on planetary bodies. The total cost of the Chandrayaan-3 mission will exceed Rs 600 crores, according to ISRO. In contrast, the overall cost of the Chandrayaan-2 mission was Rs 960 crores. This broad goal encompasses integration, cognition, and various permutations. The spaceship also needs to pass a variety of other demanding tests.

Features of Chandrayaan - 3

The launch vehicle for the Chandrayaan-3 mission is the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM-3), formerly known as the GSLV Mark III. The LVM-3 rocket, created by ISRO, is the most potent model in their arsenal. It has a diameter of 4 meters, a height of 43.5 meters, and a lift-off mass of 640 tonnes.

Up to 8,000 kilograms of payloads may be sent into low-Earth orbit by the LVM-3, and about 4,000 kilograms can be sent into a geostationary transfer orbit. It uses a higher cryogenic stage propelled by India's largest cryogenic engine, CE-20. The rocket uses two S200 solid rocket boosters to provide the necessary power for takeoff. Two liquid-stage Vikas rockets with the L110 configuration propel the core stage.

What Went Wrong with Chandrayaan - 2?

Vikram was intended to touch down roughly 600 kilometers from the Moon's south pole. On September 7, however, ISRO lost contact with their lander just before the anticipated touchdown.

It was moving at a speed of 180 to 200 kilometers per hour when contact was lost, or 50 to 60 meters per second. It was slowing down, but not quickly enough to reach the 2 metres per second (7.2 km/h) speed needed for a safe landing. Vikram was built to withstand impacts even at 5 meters per second (18 kilometers per hour). It could not even have reached a speed of five meters per second before contacting the ground at the pace it was decelerating. It damaged both itself and the instruments on board when it struck the Moon at a far greater speed.

The opportunity of demonstrating the ability to achieve a gentle landing in space was the miss that was most glaring. At the time, Isro experts said that a relatively minor issue that had been found and fixed was to blame for the catastrophe. This technology will hopefully be demonstrated successfully by the soon-to-launch Chandrayaan-3 mission.

The reason for that is, added to being perceived as a sign of India's expanding geopolitical ambitions, a successful landing could prove to be a crucial first step for future Indian Moon missions.

Learning from the Past?

The Moon landing is the main objective of India's third Moon mission. Chandrayaan-3 will be launched into an elliptical parking orbit measuring roughly 170 kilometers by 36,500 kilometers using a three-stage rocket. The lander-rover combination will subsequently be sent into a circular orbit at a distance of around 100 kilometers from the Moon's surface by a two-ton propulsion module. A 26-kilogram, six-wheeled robotic rover called Pragyan is housed inside the 1.75-ton Vikram lander. Pragyan is intended to drive around the Moon for the equivalent of around 14 days on Earth.

In response to the issues with Chandrayaan-2, ISRO engineers and scientists claim they have modified the mission's hardware and software, particularly the lander thrusters. The lander features four rather than five thruster engines, stronger legs, bigger solar panels, and enhanced soft-landing sequences that have been designed by ISRO. It will also hold more fuel.

The orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 will be used as a backup relay, while the propulsion module will act as a communications satellite. The Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE), one instrument in the propulsion module, collects information on the polarization of light reflected by Earth so that scientists can hunt for additional planets with comparable characteristics.

The lander will be equipped with equipment that will gauge the temperature of the Moon's surface, check for moonquakes, measure the density of ions and electrons close to the Moon's surface, and examine the dynamics of the Moon system.

This will be the first examination of the environment at one of the poles, but similar measurements were made by the US Apollo and Chinese Chang'e missions when they landed closer to the Moon's equator.