Russia pulls out after one of its missions failed

India has decided to go it alone in its second lunar mission, the Chandrayaan-2, which was originally proposed as an Indo-Russian venture.

This was disclosed here on Monday by S.V.S. Murty of the Planetary Exploration Group of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), an institution under the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) here.

Dr. Murty was speaking on India’s lunar and Mars missions at the ongoing workshop on exoplanets at the laboratory.

According to an agreement signed on November 12, 2007 between ISRO and Roskosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, ISRO had the primary responsibility to provide both the orbiter and the rover, while Roskosmos was to design and build the lander for this combined orbiter-rover-lander mission.

However, following the failure in December 2011 of Roskosmos’ Phobos-Grunt mission, there was a delay in the construction of the Russian lander.

The mission had a lander to return soil sample from the Martian satellite Phobos. This resulted in a complete review of technical aspects connected with the Phobos-Grunt mission, which were also used in the lunar projects such as the lander for Chandrayaan-2.

Due to this, as well as financial problems, the Russian agency apparently expressed its inability provide the lander to meet even the revised time frame of 2015 for the Chandrayaan-2 launch.

Dr. Murty stated that the cancellation of the Russian lander also meant that mission profile had to be marginally changed.

The design of the indigenous lander and the preliminary configuration study was completed by the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, he said.

Chandrayaan-2 will have five primary payloads on the orbiter, two of which will be improvements on instruments that were onboard Chandrayaan-1.

In addition, the rover too will carry two additional instruments. Chandrayaan-2 will be launched by a GSLV powered by an indigenous cryogenic engine.

However, PRL director Jitendra Goswami clarified that this did not mean that the Indo-Russian collaboration on planetary exploration had ended. Since Chandrayaan-2 was intended to be Roskosmos’ Luna-Glob moon exploration programme, the Russian agency may join hands with ISRO in any of its lunar missions, Dr. Murty said.

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