Chandrayaan-3 launch likely in third quarter of 2022: Govt
The Chandrayaan-3 mission has been planned as only a lander-rover mission to demonstrate India’s capability of soft landing on a celestial body that will communicate with Earth via the existing orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 whose lifespan has been estimated to be seven years
India is likely to launch its third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3 in the third quarter of next year because the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the fabrication of the spacecraft, Union minister of state for the department of space Jitendra Singh told Parliament in a written response (CHECK). The tentative schedule is based on the assumption that work will proceed apace and normally henceforth, Singh added.
Chandrayaan-3 was planned to demonstrate India’s capability of soft landing on a celestial body, with the rover then communicating with Earth via the existing orbiter from Chandrayaan-2. The orbiter has an estimated lifespan of seven years. The third mission was announced months after the Vikram lander aboard Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed on the lunar surface just 2.1 km from its destination in September 2019. Chandrayaan- 3 was initially scheduled for late 2020 or early 2021, but the disruption caused by the pandemic affected the schedule.
“The realisation of Chandrayaan-3 involves various processes, including finalisation of configuration, subsystem realisation (manufacturing), integration, spacecraft-level detailed testing and a number of special tests to evaluate the systems performance on Earth. The realisation process was hampered due to Covid-19 pandemic,” Singh said in his response.
On Monday, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chief K Sivan told news agency PTI that the first uncrewed mission planned for December as part of the human space flight programme Gaganyaan would be delayed because of Covid-19, which had caused a disruption in the delivery of key components.
Before the second wave of the pandemic in April-May, Isro finished manufacturing the propulsion system for Chandrayaan -3 and started tests on it. The lander and propulsion systems were being integrated and several tests were planned for the middle of the year.
A successful moon landing would have made India the fourth country in the world to land a rocket on the moon after the US, the erstwhile USSR, and China, and the first to have landed close to the lunar South Pole.
“There were several big-ticket missions planned for 2020 and 2021; many commercial missions too. Now all the missions are getting pushed and it will have an impact on the image of India’s space mission internationally. We haven’t been able to successfully create a bio-bubble like China and US that have been carrying out missions through the pandemic,” said Ajay Lele, senior fellow working on space security and strategic technologies at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
“As for the commercial launches like the maiden flight of the small satellite launch vehicle, many customers have already booked slots for their satellites but if the missions keep on getting delayed, they might move towards other launch providers. As for the scientific missions, the delay there can cost us valuable observations. There was a gap of eleven years between the first and the second lunar mission; meaning we have to wait that long to reconfirm findings from previous mission. We have already missed three launch windows for a follow-up Mars mission and we will miss the next one in 2022 as well,” he said.