Last-hour call-off is Chandrayaan-2’s 3rd reschedule

In this picture released by ISRO Thursday, July 11, 2019, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk 3) or 'Bahubali' is seen at the second launch pad ahead of the launch of Chandrayaan-2, in Sriharikota. The space mission, which aims t

The final hour suspension of India’s most ambitious moon mission yet, Chandrayaan-2 is the first after a countdown. But this is the third time since April 2018 that the complex launch has been delayed due to multiple factors.

Designed to be a world-beater in cost-efficiency and soft-landing on the moon’s polar region, the spacecraft’s launch was first scheduled in April 2018. It was postponed to October 2018. But this too did not materialise as the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) found that the vehicle required further tests.

The Mission’s Comprehensive Technical Review meeting eventually decided that the launch could be carried out only in the first half of 2019. The meeting had proposed a slew of changes in the configuration and landing sequence, and these had to be incorporated.

During one of the multiple tests on the Chandrayaan-2 components, two Lander legs suffered minor damage in February this year. This too contributed to the delay.

In February 2018, the then Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, in charge of the Department of Space, Jitendra Singh had talked about the Mission’s April 2018 launch. Isro chairman, K Sivan too had declared that the launch window was between April and
November 2018.

But there was an uncertainty in that statement and a more realistic launch date was sometime in October or November 2018.

The Mission’s Orbiter and Rover had cleared all the evaluation and tests. But a Lander test in February 2019 showed that its legs were not strong enough to support the weight. Isro deduced that additional mass due to new configuration could have caused the imbalance.

The anomaly was eventually addressed by a task force set up under Srinivasan R K from the U R Rao Satellite Centre.

The delays were inevitable for another key reason: The need for a suitable launch window. Simply put, the Mission’s systems required a clear 14 days as they were powered totally by solar energy.

Sivan had explained that the Earth, Moon and the Sun had to be positioned rightly for the launch. Clear sunlight was a must for 14 days. The July 15 date was finalised based on a detailed study of the alignments.

The latest delay could also be attributed to the launch vehicle itself, the GSLV-Mk III, christened ‘Baahubali’ for its massive power and size. Unlike the proven PSLV that blasted off with Chandrayaan-1 and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), GSLV has carried only one operational launch so far.

GSLV-Mk III’s success in the Chandrayaan-2 Mission will be critical to its future use as a launch vehicle in Isro’s first manned mission, Gaganyaan.

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