(ORDO NEWS) — India’s second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon is likely to be pushed back to 2023, according to the head of the country’s space agency.
S Somanath, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), told Indian news channel NewsX that the Chandrayaan 3 lunar lander is in the assembly phase, but teams are still testing vital systems, which means the launch, previously scheduled for August, could be postponed until next year.
“We’re currently testing the propulsion system because, you know, we had problems with it last time,” Somnath said.
The comment was in reference to the 2019 Chandrayaan 2 mission, which included an orbiter, lander, and rover. The lunar orbiter has been successfully operating for more than two years, but the Vikram lander made a hard landing after losing control of the spacecraft’s thrust.
To avoid a similar incident with Chandrayaan-3, ISRO made adjustments to the design of the lander.
“There are changes to the propulsion system… It is being tested at the liquid propulsion center in Mahendragiri,” Somanath said. “Teams are testing the integration of motor, computer and sensory systems.”
While the data from the trials has been very good, ISRO is proceeding with caution. “This time we would like to proceed very, very carefully because we know how to go to the moon,” Somanath said. “It’s well proven. The only thing we need to know is how it lands. And it should be unmistakable to the best of our ability.”
The Chandrayaan-3 mission includes a new lander and rover, but no orbiter. Like Chandrayaan 2, the mission is expected to target a circumpolar landing area, and the vehicle will operate for one lunar day (14 Earth days) on the surface – the mission will not be able to survive the extreme cold of a lunar night.
Human flight into space
ISRO’s crewed Gaganyaan mission is also moving forward. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., a state-owned aerospace and defense company, delivered the first set of Gaganyan equipment to ISRO on April 4, India Today reports.
The design of all systems and subsystems for Gaganyan has been completed, Space Minister Jitendra Singh wrote in March in response to a question posed in the Lok Sabha, India’s parliament.
In the next phases, ISRO will test abort sequences in August and December. These tests are designed to verify that emergency systems will be able to get astronauts to safety in the event of anomalies during launch.
Launch abort tests will be carried out before India conducts an orbital test of the Gaganyan capsule. Only then can the first crewed launch attempt take place.
Project Gaganyan was announced in August 2018 with the aim of launching the first Indian crewed mission before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, which will be celebrated on August 15, 2022.
In 2021, ISRO stated that the COVID-19 pandemic had postponed the first crewed flight to 2023. Test flights are expected to take place in 2023 if the flight abort tests are successful, but the first crewed flight can now only take place in 2024.
The Gaganyan spacecraft will be launched on a modified Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The standard version of the booster suffered a catastrophic failure in August 2021.
The cause of the failure has been identified, Somanath told NewsX, and the rocket is now expected to return to service in the second half of the year with the scheduled launch of the first navigation satellite of the NVS series.
Somanath also said that the space policy for 2022, designed to provide guidance and regulation for private space enterprises in India, has already been developed and will be published after it is approved by Parliament.
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