Chandrayaan 2: Everything You Need to know | ScienceMonk

The primary objective of the mission is to find water on the lunar surface. Landing the Chandrayaan-2 will be one of the major concerns of the Indian space agency, ISRO. A successful landing of Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to attempt to soft-land on the Moon, a feat achieved by the space agencies of the USSR, China and the U.S.

A Brief About Chandrayaan-1: The Predecessor of Chandrayaan-2

C11….that was the serial number of a PSLV-XL rocket. Roughly about 80 km north of Chennai from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, a spacecraft was launched on October 22, 2008, 00:52 hrs which went on to create a benchmark for the country.

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the Moon was launched on that PSLV-XL rocket along with 11 other scientific instruments made in India, UK, Sweden, Germany, USA, and Bulgaria. India’s mission with Chandrayaan-1 was remote sensing and planetary science.

Chandrayaan is derived from Sanskrit. It translates to Chandra which means Moon and yaan meaning vehicle. The Chandrayaan-1 had made nearly 3400 revolutions around the Moon. It operated successfully for 312 days until it lost contact on August 29, 2009.

Chandrayaan-1 was crashed due to abnormally high radiation and failed power-supply. It was planned that the Chandrayaan-1 would last for two years. Even though it didn’t complete its expected life, it helped scientists determine about 95% of their missions and objectives, and hence, it was deemed a successful mission.

Around a decade later – a landmark in itself; it has been decided that Chandrayaan-2, the successor to Chandrayaan-1, will be launched early in the morning at 02:51 on July 15. It’s a big day for Indians. It is expected that the Chandrayaan-2 will land on the Moon on September 6.
It includes an indigenously developed lunar orbiter, Lander, and Rover all accomplished by ISRO. Unlike Chandrayaan-1, Chandrayaan-2 will be launched by GSLV Mk III M1. PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), as well as GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) both,  are developed by ISRO for launching satellites. The PSLV is the older of the two, and the GSLV also inherits certain technologies from its predecessor.

(Read More- Aditya mission- Isro Mission to Sun)

PSLV is mainly used to launch “earth-observation” or “remote-sensing” satellites. GSLV, on the other hand, is used to launch communication satellites of INSAT class (about 2,500 kg mass) which operates from Geostationary orbits which are about 36000 km from a celestial body. GSLV is used to launch them into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbits.


Looking back in time, on November 12, 2007, ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency(Roscosmos) decided to work together on the Chandrayaan-2 project. ISRO was working on the Orbiter and the Rover and the Russian agreed to work on the Lander.

The Indian government approved the Chandrayaan-2 mission on September 18, 2008. By August 2009 the design of the spacecraft was finalized. There were several hurdles along the path. ISRO had already finalized the payload for the Chandrayaan-2 as per schedule, but the mission had to be postponed to January 2013 and later to 2016 due to the inability of Russia to develop the Lander on time.

In the wake of the latter’s failure of the Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars, Roscosmos withdrew from the mission. This was mainly since the technical aspects connected with the Fobos- Grunt mission were to be used in the Chandrayaan project. After a thorough review, Russia cited its inability to provide the Lander even by 2015; hence, India decided to develop everything on its own.

The two key components of the Chandrayaan 2, the Lander and the Orbiter are configured to interface with each other mechanically in a stacked fashion as an integrated module and will be located inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle. The Lander carries the Rover.

The post being launched into the Earth’s orbit by the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle, the Orbiter Propulsion Module will be deployed, enabling The Lander to reach the Moon’s orbit. Thereafter the Lander will release the Rover to soft-land at a predesignated spot in the vicinity of the Lunar south pole. Subsequently, the Rover will be conducting experiments on the Lunar surface. The Lander and the Orbiter have equipment mounted to carry out experiments.

The Main Components of the lunar mission are:

The Orbiter:

With a weight of 2379 Kg and electric generation capacity 1000W, the orbiter is set to orbit the Moon at an altitude of 100km. It will be capable of sharing information with Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) as well as the Vikram Lander.

Orbiter:- The Orbiter will observe the lunar surface and relay communication between Earth and Chandrayaan 2’s Lander — Vikram.

Vikram Lander:

The lander is named Vikram after Vikram Sarabhai, widely regarded as the father of the Indian space program. With weight 1471 Kg and electric generation capacity 650W, it is designed to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. It is capable of communicating with IDSN at Byalalu as well as the orbiter and Rover.

Vikram Lander:- The lander is designed to execute India’s first soft landing on the lunar surface.

Pragyan Rover:

Pragyan is a Sanskrit word that translates to wisdom. The task of the Rover is to conduct on-site chemical analysis and send the data to the Lander, which in turn will relay the information to the Earth station. It has a weight of 27 Kg and electric generation capacity 50W, and capable of communicating with the Lander. It can travel up to half Km using solar energy as a source for its functioning.

chandrayaan Rover
Pragyan Rover:- The rover is a 6-wheeled, AI-powered vehicle named Pragyan, which means ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit.

As for the payload, ISRO decided that five scientific instruments will be there for the orbiter, four for the Lander, and two for the Rover. It was previously decided that NASA and ESA would also be participating in the mission by providing some scientific instruments for the orbiter.

But that it was later decided by ISRO that due to weight constraints it would not be possible to carry foreign payloads on the mission. A last-minute addition of a small retroreflector from NASA to the Lander’s payload was done to measure the exact distances to the Moon.

Some Interesting Facts about the Chandrayaan-2

  • Scientists at ISRO has confirmed that the primary objective of the mission is to find water on the lunar surface, which is backed by ‘the thousands of tests’ conducted by the agency.
  • Landing the Chandrayaan-2 will be the major concern of the space agency, and it is the biggest challenge posed to ISRO.
  • There will be a 15 minutes window when the Lander separates and before it makes a soft landing on the Moon. This has been termed as “terrifying moments” by the agency as such a feat has never been undertaken previously by such a flight.
  • The first landing pictures will be available within 15 minutes of the Lander touching down. However, four hours will have elapsed from the time of landing to such time that the Rover comes out the Lander.
  • The Rover and the Lander will have a life of one lunar day (14 earth days). During the span of this period, it will conduct scientific experiments. The orbiter, however, has a life span of one year.
  • The same launch strategy of Chandrayan-1 will be followed for the launch of Chandrayaan-2. It should be noted that the Chandrayaan-1 was just an orbiter while the Chandrayaan-2 has additional Lander and Rover components, which adds to the complexity of the mission.
  • The mission carries 13 Indian scientific instruments for conducting experiments ranging from imaging of rocks to find elements like magnesium, calcium, and iron to look for signs of water. The mission will also study the Moon’s exosphere.
  • The NASA instrument that is a part of the payload will be used for LASER ranging. This will mark the cooperation between the two space agencies. India will also use the Deep Space Network of NASA on a payment basis for navigation and guidance.
  • One wheel of the rover will have the Ashok Chakra on it while the Lander will have the tricolor.
  • A successful landing of Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to attempt to soft-land on the Moon, a feat achieved by the space agencies of the USSR, China, and the U.S.
  • The instruments will use solar energy to power the systems.
  • The near-flat surface with good visibility for a safe landing and expected the higher presence of water and minerals are the main reasons why the Moon’s south-pole is chosen by ISRO for landing.

With the mission to explore the unexplored, Chandrayaan-1 was proven to be one of the successful missions conducted by ISRO. The detached Moon Impact Probe from the orbiting Chandrayaan detected the traces of water vapor on the Moon. It was also confirmed by another payload Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3).

From the spectral analysis of M3, it is also believed that Hydroxyl ions and water molecules formation is an on-going process on Moon.

  • Terrain Mapping Camera: To produce a high-resolution map of the Moon.
  • HySI or Hyper Spectral Imager: Was used for mineralogical mapping in a 400-900nm band.
  • LLRI or Laser Ranging Instrument: Was used for the topological study of the Moon.
  • HEX: a High Energy aj/gamma x-ray spectrometer that measured the outgassing of some radioactive elements.
  • Moon Impact Probe: for acquiring images of the lunar surface and for measuring the constituents of the lunar atmosphere.

Payloads from other countries that Chandrayaan-2 will be carrying.

  • X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer was a collaboration between Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, U.K., ESA, and ISRO, which mapped the abundance of Mg, Al, Si, Ca, Ti, and Fe at the surface.
  • Moon Mineralogy Mapper the from Brown University and JPL was an imaging spectrometer designed to map the surface mineral composition. Also, it confirmed the traces of water vapor.
  • Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser from the ESA mapped mineral composition.
  • SIR- 2 a near-infrared spectrometer from ESA, built at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Polish Academy of Science and University of Bergen, also mapped the mineral composition.
  • Mini-SAR designed, built, and tested for NASA with outer support from ISRO, helped to estimate water content on the Moon’s polar regions.
  • RADOM-7, Radiation Dose Monitor Experiment from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was used to map the radiation environment around the Moon.

Key Payloads From Chandrayaan-2

  • Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer: Elemental composition of the Moon.
  • Imaging I.R. Spectrometer: Mineralogy mapping and water-ice confirmation.
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar L & S Band: Polar-region mapping and sub-surface water-ice confirmation.
  • Orbiter High-Resolution Camera: High-Res topography mapping.
  • Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment: Thermal conductivity and temperature gradient.
  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy: In-situ elemental analysis and abundance in the vicinity of the landing site.

Chandrayaan-1 was planned to survey lunar for mineralogy mapping and 3D topography. It was successful in discovering the presence of water vapor on the Moon. Chandrayaan-2 will use and test various new technologies to study detailed topology, seismography, mineral identification, and distribution, and also the atmosphere.

The wheeled Rover will perform chemical analysis on the moon’s surface, which promises to give new insights into the Moon.

The article is co-authored by Joy Poddar







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