GSLV Mk III or ISRO’s ‘fat boy’ will now carry the spacecraft

With Israel too planning to launch a moon mission in December, it will be a race between Tel Aviv and New Delhi for the fourth position in the world to soft-land on the moon. Till now, US, Russia and China have been able to soft-land their spacecraft on the mission’s surface

NEW DELHI: India’s most ambitious Chandrayaan-2 mission, which was earlier scheduled for October first week, has been postponed till December, according to an ISRO source. The mission, which was originally scheduled for April 23 this year, has been deferred for the second time. With Israel too planning to launch a moon mission in December, it will be a race between Tel Aviv and New Delhi for the fourth position in the world to land on the moon. Till now, US, Russia and China have been able to soft-land its spacecraft on the mission’s surface.

Unlike the Chandrayaan-1 program in 2008 that involved only orbiting around the moon, Chandrayaan-2 is a much complicated mission as it involves an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The mission involves a soft-landing on the lunar surface and a rover that will walk and analysis the content on the moon’s surface. Being India’s most challenging mission, ISRO doesn’t want to take chances and taking time to fix all glitches in the lunar mission. The reason ISRO is treading cautiously with this high-profile mission is because it had witnessed two satellite mission failures in the last one year — navigation satellite IRNSS-1H got stuck in the heat shield during its launch last August and GSAT-6A communication satellite went out of control after it was launched in April this year.

As the weight of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft has increased, according to the source, GSLV Mk III or ISRO’s ‘fat boy’ will now carry the spacecraft as it has the lifting capability of over four tonne. According to the earlier plan, GSLV Mk II which just three-ton lifting capability was supposed to carry the payload.

Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries will launch its mission to the moon by the end of this year. Describing its mission, SpaceIL, in a video, said it involved a 1,300-pound lander piggybacking on an Elon Musk-owned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, whose primary payload is a communications satellite. The spacecraft will orbit the moon for almost two months before landing, where it will record and send video and conduct some small science observations using a magnetometer.

Describing India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, the ISRO chairman had earlier told TOI, “It is totally an indigenous programme. All components of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, including an orbiter, a lander and a rover, have been developed in the country. There integration is going on and they all are undergoing rigorous tests. On reaching the moon’s orbit, the lander will get detached from the orbiter and soft-land on the lunar surface. The six-wheeled rover fixed within the lander will get detached and move on the lunar surface for around 100 metres. It will spend 14 Earth days (one moon day) and analyse the content. It will also take photos of the moon’s surface and relay the images back to the Earth via the orbiter within 15 minutes.”