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Last Updated : Jul 21, 2019 10:05 AM IST | Source:

Chandrayaan 2: India's second moon mission explained

ISRO's second Moon mission is set to lift off on July 22, a week after it was initially planned to launch. The July 15 launch had been called off after a "technical glitch". If successful, India will become the fourth country to soft land on Moon

Nachiket Deuskar @PartTimeBowler

Chandrayaan 2, India's second lunar exploration mission is set to launch on the afternoon of July 22. The launch will happen at 2.43 pm from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

This, after the launch was aborted less than an hour before it was supposed to lift off in the early hours of July 15, due to a “technical snag”. It was supposed to be attended by President Ram Nath Kovind.

On July 18, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed the new date and timing for the highly-anticipated launch.


According to reports, the mission had to be postponed after a drop in pressure was detected after helium was filled into the tank. This indicated a leak in the fuel tank.

The mission is being executed by the ISRO -- India’s state-owned space agency. ISRO has said the mission is a “promising test bed to demonstrate technologies required for deep-space missions”.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to soft land on the moon, after the US, erstwhile Soviet Union and China.

Chandrayaan 2 will also become the second mission to land close to the Moon’s South Pole. China’s Chang’e 4 was the first to land in the region in January. It will also attempt deploy a rover in a high plain area between two craters -- Manzinus C and Simpelius N.

Orbiter at the launch centre (Image: ISRO)

Orbiter at the launch centre (Image: ISRO)

The mission

The programme was approved by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 18, 2008. It has been under planning and preparation since.

If the mission begins as planned, the lunar landing is expected to happen around September 13.

Scientific experiments will continue on the lunar surface for 14 Earth day (1 lunar day). The orbital experiment will happen for about 1 year.

As of June, the mission had been allocated Rs 978 crore (approximately $142 million). The orbiter's structure was manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Also read -- In Pics | Chandrayaan 2: ISRO all set for second date with the Moon

Transportation of partially integrated GSLV MkIII M1 vehicle on the mobile launch pedestal (Image: ISRO)

Transportation of partially integrated GSLV MkIII M1 vehicle on the mobile launch pedestal (Image: ISRO)

Also read -- Ritu Karidhal and M Vanitha: Meet the women leading Chandrayaan 2 team


Chandrayaan 2’s basic objectives are to demonstrate the ability have a soft landing on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover there.

Speaking to the media earlier, ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan had described the landing process as "15 terrifying minutes".

On the scientific side, the aim is to study Moon’s topography, mineralogy, exosphere and hydroxyl signatures and water ice.

The orbiter will create 3D maps of the lunar surface and study the water ice in the polar region.

Why was the southern polar region chosen? The space agency has said that Moon’s South Pole is interesting because the surface area under shadow there is much larger than that at the North Pole. “There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System,” the agency has said.

Phases and components

The mission involves four phases -- launch, orbiting, landing and roving.


Chandrayaan 2 will be launched on board the tried-and-tested Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III). It will have a staggering lift-off mass of 3,877 kilograms.

Also read: All you need to know about GSLV-MkIII

The first phase would include placing Chandrayaan 2 in Earth’s parking orbit. This will be followed by orbit-raising operations before being slung into a trans-lunar injection. The final injection will be done with its own power.

Lunar orbit

The Chandrayaan 2 orbiter will cycle around the Moon at an approximate altitude of 100 kms.

The Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC) will perform high-resolution observations of the landing site before the lander is deployed.

Pragyan rover mounted on the ramp projecting from out of the sides of Vikram lander (Image: ISRO)

Pragyan rover mounted on the ramp projecting from out of the sides of Vikram lander (Image: ISRO)


The lander has been named 'Vikram' after Vikram Sarabhai. Sarabhai is widely regarded as the father of the Indian space programme.

Once deployed from the orbiter, the lander will slowly descend to a lower lunar orbit. At this point, it will perform check of all on board systems before attempting to land. The lander will then attempt a soft landing.

The landing process will be driven by Vikram’s propulsion system that of eight thrusters for attitude control and five liquid main engines. It will be able to land on surface with slope of up to 12 degrees.

Also read -- Opinion | Space Ambitions: Steps to take before India has its own space station


Upon landing, Vikram will deploy a rover named 'Pragyan'. It will be operated on solar power. The artificial intelligence (AI)-powered rover has six wheels and can traversing 500 meters at the rate of one centimetre per second.

It has the capability of conducting on-site chemical analysis and sending the data back to the lander. The lander will in turn send it to ISRO.

The rover will be controlled by an on-ground team. For assistance, the rover has been fitted with stereoscopic camera-based 3D vision.

Historically, a total of 38 soft landing attempts have been made by various space agencies. This is ISRO’s first attempt. The success rate is 52 percent.

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First Published on Jul 21, 2019 10:01 am
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