India hopes to launch its maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-I, this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday.
"This year we hope to send an Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan, to the moon," Singh said in his Independence Day address to the nation from the rampart of the majestic Red Fort.
Singh said the launch of Chandrayaan will be an important milestone in the development of the country's space programme.
The unmanned mission, which will orbit the moon for two years, is expected to be launched in October by indigenously developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
Space scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have completed the integration of the 11 instruments -- six indigenous and five under international cooperation -- onto the spacecraft.
The spacecraft, which is no bigger than a typical office cubicle, is currently undergoing tests for its ability to handle the extreme thermal and vacuum environment experienced in a lunar orbit. These assessments will be followed by vibration and acoustic tests.
Meanwhile, India has already begun work on the next lunar mission in which space scientists plan to land a rover on the surface on the moon to collect rock and dust samples.
Chandrayaan-II will be developed as a joint venture project with Russia and a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed in that regard.