Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday said it has successfully performed the fifth and final lunar bound orbital manoeuvre for the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft and was gearing up for separation of the lander from the orbiter on Monday. All spacecraft parameters are normal, the Bengaluru-headquartered space agency said after Sunday’s manoeuvre on the spacecraft, which is currently in the lunar orbit for its rendezvous with the Moon.
“The final and fifth Lunar bound orbit manoeuvre for Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was performed successfully today [September 1] beginning at 1821 hrs IST as planned, using the onboard propulsion system. The duration of the manoeuvre was 52 seconds. The orbit achieved is 119km x 127km,” ISRO said in an update. It said the next operation is the separation of lander ‘Vikram’ from Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter, which is scheduled on September 2, 2019, between 12:45pm and 1:45pm (IST). Following this, there would be two deorbit manoeuvres of lander ‘Vikram’ to prepare for its landing in the south polar region of the moon.
Vikram (with rover ‘Pragyan’ housed inside) is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on September 7, between 1:30am and 2:30am. ISRO said that after the lander’s separation on Monday, two deorbit manoeuvres are scheduled for September 3 (9:00-10:00) and September 4 (3:00-4:00) respectively, before the powered descent on September 7.
ISRO Chairman K Sivan has said the proposed soft-landing on the Moon would be a “terrifying” moment as it is something ISRO has not done before, whereas the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre was successfully carried out during the Chandrayaan-1 mission. In a major milestone for India’s second Moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft had successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20 by performing the LOI manoeuvre.
Chandrayaan-2 satellite began its journey towards the moon, leaving the earth’s orbit in the dark hours on August 14, after a crucial manoeuvre called Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) manoeuvre carried out by ISRO to place the spacecraft on “Lunar Transfer Trajectory”.
India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1 had successfully launched the 3,840kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into the earth’s orbit on July 22. The spacecraft’s health is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network antennas at Bylalu, near Bengaluru, the space agency has said.
Following the landing, the rover ‘Pragyan’ will roll out from lander ‘Vikram’ between 5:30-6:30am on September 7 and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days. The mission life of the lander is also one lunar day, while the orbiter will continue its mission for a year. The orbiter carries eight scientific payloads for mapping the lunar surface and studying the exosphere (outer atmosphere) of the Moon while the lander carries three scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface science experiments.
The rover carries two payloads to enhance the understanding of the lunar surface. India’s second lunar expedition would shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon, its South Polar region. ISRO has said that the mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface. On the science front, the mission aims to further expand the knowledge about the moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere, leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon, the space agency had said.