Big Chandrayaan-2 move: Lander separates from Orbiter

Vikram Lander successfully separates from Chandrayaan 2 Orbiter on September 02, 2019, at 1:15 pm. (ISRO/Video Screengrab)

The eagerly awaited separation of the Lander, Vikram from the Chandrayaan-2 mission composite has been achieved. The separation was achieved at 1.15 pm on Monday, announced the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). 

Carrying the Rover, Pragyan, the Lander is now in a lunar orbit of 119 km X 127 km. The Orbiter continues to orbit the Moon in its existing orbit, which will soon be lowered to a permanent 100 km X 100 km. 

While the Orbiter will now guide Vikram by identifying a safe, flat landing site, the Chandrayaan-2 mission team will have its eyes riveted to the Lander. Isro Chairman K Sivan had compared the separation to a bride leaving her parental home. 

The health of the Orbiter and Lander is being constantly monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru. 

Isro said this is well supported by the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Bylalu, near Bengaluru. “All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter and Lander are healthy,” the space agency certified.

The next manoeuvre on the Lander-Rover composite is now scheduled for Tuesday, September 3, between 8.45 am and 9.45 am. 

Before Monday’s separation, the spacecraft was placed in an orbit that maximized its stability. Lasting less than a second, the separation was activated through a series of commands from the Earth stations. 

The mission’s onboard systems triggered the mechanical separation, delinking Vikram from the cylindrical structure attached to the Orbiter’s top. The mood at the Isro facilities, ISTRAC and IDSN was extremely tense, echoing the experience during the spacecraft’s launch aboard GSLV-Mk II on July 22. 

All attention will now be on the de-orbit manoeuvres. The first of these operations will be conducted on September 3 to place the Lander in an orbit of 109 km X 120 km, before that grand finale on September 7. The second de-orbit manoeuvre is scheduled for September 4. 

Since its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on July 22, Chandrayaan-2 has achieved all its manoeuvres precisely following a plan. But the final soft-landing on the Moon’s south pole will be what makes the entire mission stand out. A new out of the world record beckons India and ISRO. 

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