Chandrayaan-2 Launch Mission: Bahubali rocket set to take-off at 2:43 pm on Monday

The countdown for Monday’s Rs 978-crore Chandrayaan-2 mission launch that started at 6.43 pm is progressing smoothly, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Sunday.

The rocket and spacecraft’s systems will undergo checks and fuelling during the countdown.

During the countdown period, the rocket and spacecraft’s systems will undergo checks and fuelling. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark 3 (GSLV-Mk 3) rocket with Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was originally scheduled for flight at 2.51 am on July 15. However, the flight was postponed after a technical snag was detected an hour prior to the rocket lift-off.

Read: Chandrayaan-2 launch: Why mission to Moon was deferred

Isro later rectified the fault in its 44-metre Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III). Weighing about 640-tonne, the GSLV-Mk III rocket is nicknamed ‘Bahubali’ after the hero of a successful film of the same name.

Read: Scientists hail Isro for detecting Chandrayaan-2 glitch in time

Just like the protagonist of the film lifted a heavy Lingam in one of its scenes, the rocket will carry the 3.8-tonne Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft.

About 16-minutes into its flight, the Rs 375-crore GSLV-Mk III rocket is expected to sling the Rs 603-crore Chandrayaan-2 into its 170×40400-km orbit.

Isro has sent up three GSLV-Mk III rockets so far. The first carried Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment in December 2014. The second and third GSLV-Mk III carried communication satellites GSAT-19 and GSAT-29 in February 2017 and November 2018 respectively.

Read: Chandrayaan-2 launch: India’s pathbreaking Moon mission in 11 points

GSLV-Mk III will also be used for India’s manned space mission in 2022.

The spacecraft consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover together referred to as “composite body”. The probe’s total mass is 3.8 ton and it is expected to land on Moon’s South Polar Region on September 6 or 7 this year.

It will be the first Indian expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface. This mission will make India the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to carry out a soft landing on the Moon.

After lift-off, the 3,850 kg Chandrayaan-2, comprising an orbiter, lander and rover, will undergo 15 crucial manoeuvres before landing on the Moon, expected by the first week of September, Isro chief K Sivan said.

Scientists would make soft landing of the lander in the South Pole region of the Moon where no country has gone so far, the Isro chief said.

Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China.

About 16.20 minutes after the lift-off, the GSLV rocket will inject Chandrayan-2 into 170 km x 39059 kms Earth orbit.

From then onwards, the mission will witness a series of manoeuvres by scientists to carry out different phases of the mission over the next 48 days.

Subsequent to the rescheduling of the launch, the space agency has tweaked the orbital phases, increasing Earth-bound phase to 23 days as against 17 days planned orginally.

At the end of the Earth-bound phase, the orbit of the spacecraft will be finally raised to over 1.05 lakh km before nudging it into the Lunar Transfer Trajectory taking it to the proximity of Moon in the next two days.

Then gradually over the next few days it will be brought to 100 X 100 km circular orbit when the lander will separate and after another few days of orbiting it will make a soft landing at a chosen place on the Lunar surface.

The soft landing of the lander – Vikram carrying rover ‘Pragyan’, one of the toughest phases of the mission and described by the Isro chief as “15 minutes of terror (filled moments), would be attempted between September 6-8.

“Chandrayaan-2 is the next leap in technology as we attempt to soft land close to South Pole of Moon. The soft landing is extremely complex and we will experience approximately 15 minutes of terror,” he had said earlier.

The mission, which carries a total of 13 payloads, including three from the Europe, two from the US and one Bulgaria, seeks to improve understanding of the Moon which could lead to discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole.

A Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) of US space agency Nasa is among the payloads and is aimed at understanding dynamics of Earth’s Moon system and deriving clues on lunar interior.

Sivan on Sunday said Chandrayaan-1 revealed the presence of water molecules and similarly there were possibilities of the latest mission returning successful scientific experiments.

“It is because of these reasons that Chandrayaan-2 has attracted attention not only from the Indian scientists but

also from global scientists,” he said.

Isro encountered the snag on July 15 when the liquid propellant was being loaded into the rocket’s indigenous cryogenic upper stage engine.

President Ram Nath Kovind was present here on July 15 to witness the launch.

According to Isro, the lunar South Pole is an interesting surface area which remains in shadow than North pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it, the agency said, adding craters in the South Pole region have cold traps and contain fossil record of the early solar system.

The lander ‘Vikram’, named after father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, carrying the rover ‘Pragyan’, will be landed in a high plain between two craters at a latitude of about 70 degrees South of the Moon.

Then the 27-kg ‘Pragyan’ meaning ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit and a six-wheeled robotic vehicle, will set out on its job of collecting information on lunar surface.

A safe site free of hazards for landing would be decided based on pictures sent back by the camera onboard the lander and after touchdown the rover will carry out experiments for 14 Earth days, equals one Lunar Day.

The launch would be witnessed by nearly 5,000 people who will be accommodated at a viewing gallery, located a few km from the launch pad, thrown open to the public by the Isro in May last.

(PTI inputs)

Updated: July 21, 2019 — 11:39 pm