Lunar lander faces crucial test

Chandrayaan 2’s landing sensors to be tested at artificial site at Challakere

Published - November 23, 2018 10:24 pm IST - Bengaluru

The Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander’s sensors are set to undergo a crucial test in the next few days as the mission races towards a planned take-off in around two months.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to fly the sensors on an aircraft over its artificial lunar site at Challakere to see how they will function and guide the Chandrayaan-2 landing craft when it starts descending on the lunar terrain. The test flight is slated tentatively for November 24.

The orbiter carrying the lander and a rover is scheduled to be sent to the Moon from Sriharikota on January 31 and expected to reach there sometime in February 2019.

The test on ground, called the Lander Sensor Performance Test or LSPT, will be conducted at ISRO's new R&D campus in Chitradurga district, about 200 km from here, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said.

The highly autonomous or pre-programmed mission uses a large number of sensors. Among them are those that help the lander to precisely assess its height from the landing spot; decide its speed and help it to steer clear of any boulders or uneven surface.

The lander is being developed and tested by the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. For the test, a prototype module carrying the sensors will be flown on one of ISRO's two small aircraft. As the plane descends from around 7 km to about 1 km over the artifical terrain, the sensors must show how they will guide the soft landing of the lunar craft at the right spot, speed and position.

Surface simulated

About two years back, ISRO had started readying a part of the Challakere site to resemble lunar craters and had conducted a few preliminary sensor tests. Features of the lander have since been modified and the upcoming tests will also validate the new design. “The development and testing of the orbiter are over. Lander-related activities are going on. We will then add the rover also [to tests.] Until the mission is launched, we would be testing all systems continuously after every integration,” said Dr. Sivan.

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