India’s second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 2, will be carrying a lot of 14 payloads when it takes off on July 15. Majority of the payloads — eight out of 14 — will be aboard the orbiter

ISRO’s biggest project till date is also collaborating with NASA to send their Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) to the moon.

India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, will carrying 14 payloads abroad its 3 modules — the orbiter, the lander called Vikram and Pragyan, the rover. 

This is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) biggest project till date with a cost of nearly ₹10 billion. But, scientists are hoping that it will be well worth the investment because if successful, this will be the first time any country has landed on the Moon’s South Pole. 

Having discovered water the first time around on the Chandrayaan 1 mission, the payloads on Chandrayaan 2 want to take that discovery to the next level by finding out where the water is actually located and how much of it is present on the moon. 

The orbiter will be doing most of the heavy lifting with eight of the 13 payloads resting on its shoulders, while the lander will be carrying three payloads and the Pragyan will carry two when they launch into space on July 15.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also collaborating with the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) to carry their Laser Retroreflector Array to the Moon. 

Together, the spacecraft will have a mass of 3.8 tonnes.

Here’s a quick look at everything that Chandrayaan-2 will be carrying to the moon:

​Terrain Mapping Camera 2 (TMC 2)

Terrain mapping camera to go on board the Chandrayaan 2 mission

The TMC2 is a miniature version of the TMC 1 used for the Chandrayaan 1 mission. The objective of the camera is the map the lunar surface using its panchromatic spectral band that has a high spatial resolution of 5 meters. It is capable of covering 20 kilometres (km) to 100 km of the lunar polar orbit. The data collected can be used to understand how the moon came into existence and create a 3D representation of the lunar surface to help guide future mission.

Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (CLASS)

JEOL Soft X-Ray Emission Spectrometer

Where mapping the lunar surface is a superficial endeavour, the CLASS can analyse the different elements of the moon. It will be able to detect if any of the major elements — like Aluminium, Magnesium, Silicon, Calcium, Sodium, Iron or Titanium — are present on the Moon’s South Pole. The X-ray Spectrometer technology allows CLASS to detect these elements by measuring the X-Rays that they emit as the Sun’s rays hit them.

​Solar X-Ray Monitor (XSM)

Solar X-Ray Monitor on board the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter

The XSM is a support mechanism for CLASS. It keeps an eye on the X-Rays emitted by the Sun and its corona. It’s able the measure their intensity and them pass on that data to CLASS for support the spectrometer’s analysis.

Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC)

Graphic representation of Chandrayaan 2's orbiter with the OHRC onboard

Data alone doesn’t always tell the whole story. Visually capturing the Moon’s South Pole won’t only help ensure a safe touchdown for the lander but will also give scientists on Earth a look at the terrain after the lander separates from the orbiter. The OHRC is going to capture image for two lunar orbits and cover an area of 12 km by 3 km.

Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS)

The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) measuring visible and near infrared light from the asteroid Bennu (Source:Wikimedia) While most of the scientific instruments on-board the Chandrayaan-2 so far have had only one mission to carry out, the IIRS have two separate objectives and a third smaller task to carry out. First off, it’s going to be key in accomplishing one Chandrayaan 2’s mission objectives — analysing the presence of water on the moon. And while its looking for water, the IIRS will also be mapping the minerals and volatilises of the moon. Aside for its two primary objectives, the IIRS will measure the solar radiation that’s reflection off the Moon’s surface from 100 km in the lunar orbit.

Dual Frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

NASA ISRO synthetic aperture radar satellite

SAR is also a key payload for Chandrayaan. While the IIRS will be looking for water, SAR will be trying to provide a quantitative estimate of exactly how much water is present in the Moon's polar region. SAR will also be measuring the thickness of the Moon’s crust and its distribution. The crust maybe thicker is some places and thinner in others, that could help plan future missions and pin point where it may be easier to dig for further exploration. In addition, SAR will be compiling a high resolution map of the Moon’s South Pole.

Chandrayaan 2 Atmospheric Compositional Explorer 2 (CHACE 2)

Artist's concept of ACE located between the sun and the Earth Source:NASA

CHACE 2 will build on the experiment that was already being carried out by CHACE on India’s first mission to the moon — to can the lunar neutral exosphere and carry out an in-situ study of its composition and durability. So, as the orbiter travels around the South Pole, CHACE 2 will be taking on the spot readings of the exosphere.

​Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA)

The moon's ionosphere

The Moon’s ionosphere — the place where the Moon’s atmosphere meets the vacuum of space — is a dynamic plasma environment. Langmuir probes, using units of exposure used to study ultra-high vacuum surfaces and the absorption of gases, have been proven to effective to analyse such an environment. Using the probe, RAMBHA will be able to understand the temporal evolution of lunar plasma for the very first time near the Moon’s surface under different solar conditions.

​Chandra’s Surface Thermo-Physical Experiment (CHaSTE)

CHaSTE will be aboard the lander, Vikram

As the name suggests, CHaSTE’s main objective to track the temperature variations on the moon and ascertain possible causes. The payload has two settings. One, where CHaSTE carries out live readings of the temperature variations at different depths and two, where temperatures variations are set for a designated time period. In the second mode, the objective is to see how the moon’s crust responds to changes in temperature.

​Instrument For Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSAI)

Passive seismic experiment aboard NASA's Apollo 11 mission

Earthquakes on the moon aren’t uncommon but studying them could unravel how they specifically affect the South Pole. ILSAI can detect even the most minute of ground displacement, velocity and acceleration caused by earthquakes on the Moon.

Curiosity APXS

APXS aboard NASA's rover on Mars, Curiosity

The APXS’ primary objective to measure the elemental composition of the Moon’s surface near the landing site. Using X-Ray technology, APXS will be able to detect where X-Ray — or alpha particles — are more active in comparison to other regions. Using that data, the payload can detect where to find possible deposits of sodium, magnesium, silica calcium and other major elements.

​Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)

Two dimensional elemental mapping by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

BUT LIBS has a similar objective as the APXS — to detect the abundance and types of elements located close to the landing site. The main difference is that instead of using X-Rays, LIBS fires out high-powered laser pulses and analyses the resulting radiation caused by the decay of plasma.

​Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA)


ISRO hasn’t disclosed too many details about NASA’s experiment except that the aim to understand the dynamic nature of the Earth’s Moon system and find clues on the lunar interior.