The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning a third Lunar South Pole Exploration Mission, named Chandrayaan-3 (C-3), to be launched later in June-July 2023 by Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM MkIII) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The moon’s South Pole region is of particular interest due to the possible presence of water in areas covered in perpetual shadow—the Dark Side of the Moon. These craters also serve as ‘cold traps’ and may reveal evidence of the early beginnings of the solar system.
This mission will be a repeat exercise of the previous Chandrayaan-2 (C-2) mission of July 22, 2019, to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface, but with only a Lander and Rover. The failure of the Vikram Lander to soft land on the moon resulted in India undertaking another mission to test the landing capabilities required for the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission.
According to ISRO Chairman S Somnath, the C-3 is now prepared with several modifications, including a different engineering approach that makes it stronger and more durable than its predecessor. Unlike the previous model, the C-3 is fitted with better instrumentation and more robust impact legs to prevent any potential problems. Additionally, the new version has a backup system in place in case of any failures during operation.
Launch in June/July 2023: ISRO
Chandrayaan-3 comprises three parts—a Propulsion module, a Lander module, and a Rover module, all of which are developed indigenously. The mission aims at showcasing new technologies necessary for interplanetary expeditions. The Lander module is equipped to land softly at a designated location on the moon, while the Rover module carries out chemical analysis of the lunar surface during its mobility.
Both the Lander and Rover modules will carry scientific instruments to conduct experiments on the moon.
The primary function of Chandrayaan-3’s Propulsion module is to carry the Lander from the launch vehicle injection till the final lunar 100-kilometre circular polar orbit. The Propulsion module will act as a communications relay satellite.Apart from carrying the Lander and Rover configuration till a 100-kilometre lunar orbit, the Propulsion Module also has one scientific payload as a value addition, which will be operated after separation of the Lander module.
The GSLV MkIII (rechristened LVM MkIII) is designed to carry satellites weighing 4 tons into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and can carry satellites weighing 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 600 km. It will put the integrated module into an Elliptic Parking Orbit (EPO) having a size of ~170 x 36,500 km.
According to senior scientists at ISRO, the coordinates for three potential landing sites have been determined for the coming Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission. The areas being considered are located on the South Pole region of the moon’s side that faces earth. The selection process for the landing sites involved considering various factors, such as the slope on both the local and global levels, the amount of sun exposure, the ability to communicate with Earth via radio, and the size of craters and boulders.
The preferred landing spot for Chandrayaan-3 is located between the Manzius U and Boguslawski M craters on the moon. Additionally, the landing area offers ample flexibility for the Lander to touch down at any point within a 4 km x 2.4 km region, as long as it is within 100 mts of the Lander’s hovering point.
Where did C1 &2 leave ISRO?
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 mission was a remarkable achievement as it discovered the presence of water in vapour form in small quantities through the ‘Moon Impact Probe’ of the lunar remote-sensing Orbiter.
India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, however, caused a lot of disappointment as stated earlier. Although the mission experienced a setback, it was not a complete waste as its Orbiter segment continued to operate normally. Over the course of two years, the instruments aboard the Orbiter collected valuable new data that have contributed significantly to our understanding of the moon and its surroundings.
The Orbiter is equipped with a total of eight instruments that have been designed to accomplish several major objectives, such as examining the chemical make-up of the lunar surface and surroundings using various techniques, detecting the existence of diverse minerals, and producing a more comprehensive map of the lunar landscape. According to ISRO, all of the instruments used have generated a substantial amount of information that provides new perspectives on the moon and could potentially be beneficial for future exploration.
Why’s the News Causing Waves?
ISRO recently carried out a successful flight acceptance hot test of the CE-20 cryogenic engine for the C-3 mission. It will power the launch vehicle’s cryogenic upper stage at the ISRO Propulsion Complex, at Mahendragiri, in Tamil Nadu.
What are Highlights of Test?
Conducted for a specific duration at the High-Altitude Test Facility.
All propulsion parameters found satisfactory and closely matched predictions. Cryogenic engine to be integrated further with stage structures, propellant tanks and related fluid lines to operationalize the fully integrated flight cryogenic stage.