Defence, Aerospace, SpaceLatest NewsSpecial FeaturesSpotlight

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 First to Land on Lunar South Pole

ISRO logo

Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 mission landed on the lunar south pole on 23rd August 2023 at 18:04. This makes it the first mission in the world to touch down on Moon’s south pole, which has so far been an uncharted and unexplored territory.

Chandrayaan-3 was launched from Sathish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota on 14th July 2023, carried by ISRO’s Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3) M4* launch vehicle.

*M4 specifies that Chandrayaan-3’s launch is the 4th operational mission of LVM3.

Chandrayaan-3 Demonstrates Landing & Roving Capability, to Carry out In-situ Scientific Experiments

ISRO LVM3 Launch Vehicle
ISRO’s LVM3 M4 Launch Vehicle which launched Chandrayaan-3

Chandrayaan-3 demonstrated soft landing on Moon’s surface, along with roving capability on Moon. In due course, the mission will conduct in-situ scientific experiments.

With this mission’s success, India is now the fourth nation in the world to execute soft landing on the lunar surface after the United States, erstwhile USSR, and China.

Chandrayaan-3 comprises an indigenously developed Lander Module (LM), a Propulsion Module (PM), and a Rover.

The Propulsion Module was responsible for carrying Lander Module and Rover to Moon’s 100 Km circular polar orbit, near the lunar south pole. Chandrayaan-3 entered this orbit successfully on 16th August 2023, post which the Propulsion Module was detached. This module, which is also called the orbiter, carries a single payload, namely SHAPE (Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth), which targets to study the spectro-polarimetric signatures of Earth in the near-infrared (NIR) wavelength range (1-1.7 μm).

The Lander Module, which has been named Vikram, has performed a soft landing on Moon’s surface and deployed successfully the Rover, which has been named Pragyan. Pragyan rover weighs 26 Kg and will conduct a series of experiments comprising chemical analysis of the lunar surface.

Once on the lunar surface, the Lander and the Rover are expected to function for a single lunar daylight period, which is 14 days.

Chandrayaan-3 Mission Motivated by Chandrayaan-1’s Findings

India’s first Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, had indicated the presence of water on the Moon, which has been the motivation for launching the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Chandrayaan-1 had been launched on 22nd October 2008 from Sathish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. On 18th November 2008, a Moon Impact Probe was deliberately crashed on the lunar surface. One of the components on this probe was Chandra’s Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE), which was a spectrometer of the Space Physics Laboratory (SPL), Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). During its journey to the lunar surface, CHACE recorded possible evidence of water in the lunar atmosphere.

ISRO’s Industry Partners for Chandrayaan-3: A Made in India Mission

ISRO Chandrayaan3 Pragyan Rover
Pragyan Rover Descending from the Vikram Lander

Several industrial players had been a part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Infra giant Larsen & Toubro (L&T) was a part of developing the launch pad and other necessary infrastructure for the mission while Tata Elxsi Ltd. was involved in the development of spacecraft, avionics, and software for Chandrayaan-3. Further, MTAR Technologies Ltd., which has been a longstanding manufacturing partner of ISRO, was involved in manufacturing rocket engines and core pumps for the mission. Centum Electronics Ltd. was involved in the design development and manufacturing of electronic systems for Chandrayaan-3, while Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) participated in developing the mission’s payloads. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) was involved in the development of the Lander Module of Chandrayaan-3.

Market Response to Chandrayan-3’s Success

Effects of Chandrayaan-3’s success were echoed by the share prices of these companies as well. Mr. Sunil Singhania, founder of Abakkus Asset Manager LLP, shared via a tweet shared that after successful landing of Chandrayaan-3, market cap of companies supplying parts to the mission was up by Rs. 50,000 crore.

A day after India’s Moon Mission landed, HAL’s share prices surged by about 3.5% to achieve a 52-week high, and Centum Electronics’ share prices soared by 26% during the week of Chandrayaan-3’s landing.

Brief History of India’s Moon Missions

After the success of Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, ISRO developed Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission in 2019. India’s second Moon mission was targeted to land at the lunar south pole, and it comprised an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. However, Chandrayaan-2 suffered a crash landing on the Moon during the final few moments of its descent, and ISRO’s communication with the lander module broke.

Thereafter, Chandrayaan-3 was planned to fulfill similar objectives to those of Chandrayaan-2.

Upcoming Missions by ISRO After Chandrayaan-3

ISRO Plans Next Moon Mission in Collaboration with Japan

After Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing on Moon, another Moon mission is being planned by ISRO with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This joint mission has been coined Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (Lupex), and it will further the search for water on Moon. If found, the qualitative and quantitative analysis of these water reserves will be carried out by the Lupex mission. This mission is expected to be launched by 2026.

Three Major Missions Planned Apart from Next Moon Mission

Other than this, ISRO has three major missions lined up after Chandrayaan-3. These are Aditya L1, X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), and NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR).

Aditya L1 is a project to study the sun by placing a satellite in a halo orbit of the Sun-Earth system near the Lagrange Point (L1)**, about 1.5 million Km from the Earth. Aditya L1 has been scheduled to be launched in late August or early September of 2023.

XPoSat has been scheduled for launch in 2023, and targets launching two payloads in a low-Earth orbit to study sources of astronomical X-rays in the ranges of 8-30 KeV and 0.8-15 KeV.

NISAR is a low-Earth observatory that is being jointly developed by NASA and ISRO. This project is set to be launched in January 2024.

**Lagrange Point refers to the point of equilibrium between two gravitational bodies. There are five Lagrange Points between the Sun and Earth, which are named L1 through L5.