Moon probe tops agenda for Isro’s biggest year yet

Updated on Jan 01, 2019 02:36 PM IST

The Chandrayaan-2 mission, which is estimated to cost ₹800 crore, will send a rover to the moon’s south pole that has never been explored before.

The Indian military communication satellite GSAT-7A is pictured next to the moon as it is launched into orbit on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in Sriharikota in the state of Andhra Pradesh on December 19, 2018.(AFP Photo)
The Indian military communication satellite GSAT-7A is pictured next to the moon as it is launched into orbit on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in Sriharikota in the state of Andhra Pradesh on December 19, 2018.(AFP Photo)

With several high-profile missions in the pipeline, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is looking at a busy 2019. The year will begin on a high note, with India’s second mission to the moon likely to be launched in January after several delays and a design change.

The mission had to be delayed after experts suggested modifications to the orbit, the configuration, and the design of the lander of the mission.

“This is the most complex mission by Isro. To ensure that the first attempt itself is successful, it was suggested that instead of coming straight away to a 100km orbit, it should be 100*30km orbit and land from there. Some changes were also made to the configuration to ensure the safety of the mission,” Isro chairman K Sivan has said.

The original lander was stumbling on impact, which prompted the designing of better legs for stability. “With all these changes, the mass increased to 3.8 tonne, which the GSLV Mark II could not carry, so cc, with a carrying capacity of 4 tonne, had to be operationalised,” he said.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission, which is estimated to cost 800 crore, will send a rover to the moon’s south pole that has never been explored before. Indian scientists hope to directly observe the water ice on the lunar surface, evidence for which had been gathered by spectrometers aboard India’s first moon mission in 2008.

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Apart from the complex Chandrayaan mission, Isro has three other launches scheduled for the first three months of 2019. With the launch of GSAT 20, Isro will also complete the four satellite configuration that will provide high-speed 100GBPS connectivity across the country.

For this year, Isro has already set a roadmap for 22 missions (11 launches) that will send to space six earth observation satellites, six communication satellites and two space science payloads.

“There are several important missions that have been planned for the next couple of years. Currently, the projects are being reviewed and deadlines set as per their priority,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity. Later in the year, Isro will also be busy with preparations for India’s first solar mission, which is to be launched in 2020.

The satellite, Aditya L1, will be placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. The L1 is a point between the Sun and Earth where the gravitational force felt by the satellite will be equal to the centrifugal force and will help study the Sun continuously without any eclipses.

It will study the visible surface of the Sun, photosphere, the irregular layer above it called Chromosphere and the corona, the outer layers of the sun extending to thousands of kilometres with the very high temperature of around 6000 Kelvin.

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Another high-profile project that Isro will work on next year is the manned mission to space announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Five months after the PM’s announcement of the mission, which has been named Gaganyaan, the Cabinet cleared the plan to send a three-member team into orbit for up to a week in 2022, with the programme expected to cost about 10,000 crore.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anonna Dutt is a health reporter at Hindustan Times. She reports on Delhi government’s health policies, hospitals in Delhi, and health-related feature stories.

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