The Chandrayaan 3 mission is to show end-to-end capabilities in safe lunar landing and roaming.
Chandrayaan-3 Launch date: Four years after breaking many hearts, ISRO’s Chandrayaan is preparing to launch its third mission to the moon on Friday in a bid to join the rare club of nations that have completed lunar missions with a gentle landing. As the Indian Space Research Organisation is ready for the much-anticipated launch from this spaceport on July 14, a ‘fat boy’ LVM3-M4 rocket will transport Chandrayaan-3 as part of India’s ambitious moon mission. The gentle landing on the surface of the moon is scheduled for late August.
In 2019, Chandrayaan-2 failed to make the intended soft landing on the moon’s surface, leaving the ISRO crew disappointed. Images of an emotional then-ISRO chairman K Sivan being consoled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on hand to witness the historic achievement, remain fresh in many people’s minds. After many hours of hard labor, scientists at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here hope to perfect the science of soft-landing on the moon’s surface. If India succeeds, it will be only the fourth country to do so, following the United States, China, and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
Chandrayaan-3 is the third lunar exploration mission ready for launch in the fourth operational mission (M4) of the LVM3 rocket. According to the space agency, ISRO is breaking new ground by demonstrating a soft landing on the lunar surface with its lunar module and roaming around the lunar landscape. The mission is intended to aid future interplanetary voyages. The Chandrayaan-3 project includes an indigenous propulsion module, a lander module, and a rover with the goal of developing and testing new technologies needed for interplanetary missions.
On Thursday, the countdown to the launch of the 43.5-meter-tall rocket, which is scheduled to blast off from the second launch pad at 2.35 p.m. on July 14, will begin. The largest and heaviest LVM3 rocket (previously GSLV MkIII), affectionately referred to as ‘fat boy’ by ISRO scientists because of its heavy lift capabilities, has completed six straight successful missions. The LVM3 rocket has three components: propulsion, lander, and rover (which is housed within the lander).
The mission on Friday is the fourth operational flight of LVM3, with the purpose of sending the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft into Geo Transfer Orbit. The LVM3 spacecraft has proven its adaptability by injecting multi-satellites and performing interplanetary missions, among other things. According to ISRO, it is also the biggest and heaviest launch vehicle ferrying Indian and international client satellites. The reason for arranging the launch window in July, like with the Chandrayaan-2 mission (July 22, 2019), is because the Earth and moon are closest to each other at this time of year.
Friday’s mission follows Chandrayaan-2, in which scientists want to show several capabilities such as reaching lunar orbit, soft-landing on the lunar surface with a lander, and a rover emerging from the lander to examine the moon’s surface. In the Chandrayaan-2 mission, instead of a gentle landing, the lander crashed on the surface, resulting in a failed effort by ISRO.
However, scientists have gone to great lengths this time to guarantee that everyone grins in August when the landing is scheduled. The Satish Dhawan Space Centre was buzzing with activity as the launch vehicle was recently integrated into the launch mission complex at the second launch pad as the launch date approached. The 24-hour-long ‘launch rehearsal’ replicating the whole launch preparation and process finished on Tuesday at Sriharikota.
According to scientists, after lift-off at 2.35 p.m. on Friday, around 16 minutes after lift-off, the propulsion module is expected to separate from the rocket and orbit the Earth for about 5-6 times in an elliptical cycle with 170 km closest to Earth and 36,500 km furthest from Earth moving towards the lunar orbit. After acquiring speed, the propulsion module and lander would travel for nearly a month to reach lunar orbit, where it would be 100 km above the lunar surface.
After reaching the desired position, the lander module will begin its descent for a gentle landing on the moon’s south pole area, which is slated to take place on August 23 or 24, according to ISRO scientists. The south-polar area of the moon was chosen since the Lunar South polar remains significantly bigger than the North Pole. There is a potential for water in persistently dark places surrounding it. The importance of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, as opposed to its failed predecessor, is that the Propulsion Module carries a payload — SHAPE — Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth, which will investigate the planet from lunar orbit.
According to ISRO, the SHAPE is an experimental payload designed to examine the Earth’s spectro-polarimetric fingerprints in the near-infrared wavelength region. The Propulsion Module’s primary duty, besides carrying the SHAPE payload, is to transport the Lander Module from the launch vehicle injection orbit until lander separation. After landing on the moon’s surface, the lander module carries payloads such as RAMBHA-LP, which measures near-surface plasma ion and electron density and changes, ChaSTE Chandra’s Surface Thermo Physical Experiment — which measures thermal properties of the lunar surface near the polar region, and ILSA (Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity), which measures seismicity around the landing site and delineates the structure of the lunar crust and mantle.
Following the gentle landing, the Rover would emerge from the lander module and examine the moon’s surface with its payload APXS – Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer – to determine the chemical composition and infer mineralogical composition to further expand understanding of the lunar surface. According to ISRO, the Rover has a mission life of one lunar day (14 Earth days) and another payload called the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) that will determine the elemental composition of lunar soil and rocks surrounding the lunar landing site.