Chandrayaan-2: Technical snag halts India’s lunar mission

Our Bureau Sriharikota | Updated on July 15, 2019

The technical snag was noticed after loading of cryogenic fuel in to the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) that was to launch the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

A security guard stands behind the logo of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at its headquarters in Bengaluru.   -  Reuters

New schedule of Chandrayaan-2 launch will be announced later: ISRO

India’s ambitious lunar mission — Chandrayaan-2 — has been called off due to a technical snag just 56.24 minutes before lift off at the wee hours on Monday. The ₹978-crore mission was supposed to be India’s second moon mission that would have made the country only the fourth nation after the US, Russia and China to land a rover on the moon.

The mission was also considered as a step before the planned mission of sending an Indian into the space by 2022 using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) rocket — nicknamed as Bahubali — that was to launch Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, today at 02.51 hr.

A technical snag was noticed just after loading of cryogenic fuel into the rocket. The new schedule will be announced later, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official said.

The vehicle will have to be assessed for the problem. This is expected to take 10 days after which the future launch schedule will be decided, said an ISRO official. The snag could be in the pressurisation of the rocket’s systems as the rocket was fully loaded with fuel, he added.

Chandrayaan-2 was mission to the moon’s south polar region where no other country has ever gone. The aim was to improve the understanding of the moon, which could lead to discoveries that will benefit India and humanity. The insights will cause a paradigm shift in how lunar expeditions are approached for years to come, propelling further voyages into the farthest frontiers.

Read also: India reaches for the Moon, again

The 44-m tall and 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III rocket was to carry the 3.8-tonne Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, which consisted of three segments — the Orbiter (weighing 2,379 kg with eight payloads),’ lander-Vikram (1,471 kg with four payloads) and rover Pragyan (27 kg with two payloads). The three stage/engine rocket with two strap-on motors powered by solid fuel. The second stage was core liquid fuel booster and third is cryogenic engine.

So far, ISRO had launched three GSLV-Mk III vehicles — first on December 18, 2014 carrying Crew Module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment of 3.7 tonne. The second and third was on June 5, 2017 and November 14, 2018 carrying communication satellites GSAT-19 (3.1 tonne) and GSAT-29 (3.4 tonne) respectively.

Similar halts

This is not the first time that a space mission has been cancelled at the last minute. The GSLV-D5 that successfully launched GSAT-14 in January 2014 was originally scheduled for launch on August 19, 2013 but was called off a few hours before the lift off due to fuel leak from its second stage or engine.

In 2007, just 15 seconds before the lift-off, the rocket’s computers put GSLV on hold detecting anomalies in the cryogenic fuel stage. The launch was delayed by two hours to set right the problem.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group, reacting to the Chandrayaan-2 mission call off in a tweet said, “Better safe than sorry... A competent, professional team knows when a risk is too high and always makes a temporary retreat in order to successfully advance another day.. When you’re ready to launch again, I’ll happily stay awake again !”

With so much anticipation, the country is waiting eagerly for the new launch date.

Published on July 15, 2019

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