The Chandrayaan-3 mission is expected to be launched in August 2023, S. Somnath, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said here on the sidelines of a conference.
Dr. Somnath explained that while mission parameters would remain the same there were several changes being made to the design. “The design and engineering are significantly different [compared to Chandrayaan-2] to make it more robust and avoid the problems from last time.”
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is a follow-up of Chandrayaan-2 of July 2019, which aimed to land a rover on the lunar South Pole. It was sent aboard the country’s most powerful geosynchronous launch vehicle, the GSLV-Mk 3. However, lander Vikram, instead of a controlled landing, ended up crash-landing on September 7, 2019, and prevented rover Pragyaan from successfully travelling on the surface of the moon. Had the mission been successful, it would have been the first time a country landed its rover on the moon in its maiden attempt.
The legs that would hold the body of the craft on landing were made more rugged, there are improved sensors and algorithms to identify sites where the lander could successfully descend safely and better instrumentation that would provide more resilient back-up systems, said Dr. Somnath.
On Sunday, October 23, ISRO is expected to launch 36 satellites aboard its heaviest rocket LVM3 — earlier known as the GSLV Mk3. These satellites belong to British start-up OneWeb and will launch from the spaceport in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota. Telecom major Airtel has a significant stake in OneWeb. A successful mission will greatly improve ISRO’s prospects in the commercial space launch sector where it can use its heaviest rockets to launch heavy payloads.
“There is also a second set of satellites [of OneWeb] that will be launched in February next year,” he added.
Preparations for India’s maiden manned mission into space or Gaganyaan were progressing with an expected launch date of December 2024. “They are going on slow and steady. It requires several critical steps to be crossed. There will be two unmanned missions and four abort missions before we decide on sending the manned mission. Of course all of them have to be fully successful.”
Abort missions refer to test flights to test whether the rocket can carry a module into space and return safely.
In February this year, Science Minister Jitendra Singh, who is also in charge of Space, told Parliament that Chandrayaan-3 was to have been a go in August 2022.