New from the side of the Indian space program, we know that the Chandrayaan 3 mission, aimed at landing on the moon, could be postponed to 2023. However, work within ISRO or the Indian Space Research Organization continues to accomplish what the previous mission regrettably failed to accomplish.
According to S. Somanath, President of ISRO, the Chandrayaan 3 lander is currently in the full assembly phase. The team is testing all major systems, meaning the launch could happen next year instead of this year. Somanath explained that they were testing the propulsion system as that was what caused the problem last time. During the 2019 Chandrayaan 2 mission, a lander carrying a rover was actually supposed to reach the lunar surface after the orbiter was launched. But the Vikram lander crashed because it lost control of the engine.
In addition to this lunar mission, ISRO continues to work on its first manned spaceflight.
A system level change
According to Somanath, engineers have made changes to the lander’s propulsion system. The latter is currently being tested at the Mahendragiri Liquid Propulsion Center and the team is testing the propulsion integration, on-board computer and sensor systems.
The data collected so far are promising. However, ISRO remains cautious. Somanath said they know how to reach the moon, but what you have to learn is how to land.
Unlike the Chandrayaan 2 mission, Chandrayaan 3 will not have an orbiter, only a lander and a rover. The landing zone will be near a lunar pole and the mission will last one lunar day, ie 14 Earth days. The devices are not designed to survive the extreme cold of the moonlit night.
Progress of the manned mission
Although the next step for ISRO will be to reach the surface of the moon, the agency is also making progress in launching astronauts.
On April 4th, the state-owned company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. delivered the first elements destined for the Gaganyaan manned mission. In March, Indian Space Minister Jitendra Singh told Parliament that the design of all systems and subsystems for the Gaganyaan mission was complete.
The next step for ISRO will be to test the mission abort sequences, tests expected to take place in August or December. These tests are used to verify the emergency systems’ ability to get astronauts to safety in the event of a problem during launch. This step is crucial before the first orbital flight and sending astronauts into space.
The Gaganyaan mission was announced in August 2018, with the original goal of sending astronauts into space before the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence on August 15, 2022. However, in 2021, ISRO announced that this flight would be postponed to 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, test flights are scheduled to take place in 2023, and the first manned Indian flight could therefore only be made in 2024.