Chandrayaan-II mission on schedule, next launch to be a communication satellite: ISRO chief

New Delhi: After the success of 2018’s maiden launch on Friday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up to add more feathers to its hat this year. Addressing the team, outgoing ISRO chief AS Kiran Kumar stated that the Chandrayaan-II mission is on schedule and flight models are going through various tests.

In December 2017, ISRO had announced its historical mission to the moon – to land its very first lunar rover by the end of March 2018 through Chandrayaan-II.

The last time any country put boots on the Moon was in 2013 when China landed its Yutu rover there.

In Chandrayaan-II, the country’s second mission to the Moon, ISRO is planning to send a rover to explore the lunar surface.

While this is not India’s first mission to the Moon, it is certainly the Indian government’s most ambitious Moon research project till date.

“It is on schedule. We have to find out whether it is in March or not,” ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar told reporters here in a response to a question.

Speaking after the successful orbiting of 31 satellites, including weather observation Cartosat-2 Series craft, by the PSLV-C40, he said the Chandrayaan-II satellite was getting ready at the ISRO Satellite Centre.

It would comprise an orbiter, lander and six-wheeled rover which would move around the landing site and instruments on it would send back data that would be useful in analyzing the lunar soil.

After reaching the lunar orbit, the Lander housing the rover will separate from the orbiter. After a controlled descent, the lander will make a soft landing on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy the rover.

Director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu, S Somanath, said tests related to Chandrayaan-II were underway at the center also.

“What we are trying to do is to prove the ability to do a soft landing (the rover). Tests are on to demonstrate soft landing in a simulated way,” he said.

Terming it as a “wonderful task”, he said, “we are trying to complete it in a short span of time and that is going on right now”.

To a query on whether there was a possibility of ISRO carrying out manned space mission, Kumar said, “The possibility was always there for taking up such a mission but the government has to decide by giving resources.”

On the future launches to be taken up by ISRO in 2018, Kumar said the next launch will be a communication satellite.

The GSLV-MkII first stage had been assembled and already completed integration. “They are going through the process and it is targeted sometime next month (for launch),” he said.

Beyond that, there would be MkIII and another PSLV which will carry navigation satellite IRNSS-1I.

“We also have a number of launches almost every month one launch and we are going to work towards that”, Kumar, who is retiring later this month, said.

“We are trying to push the launch envelope to such an extent so that we have three of GSLV category and nine of PSLV category (this year). It is still quite a tough task”, he said.

Referring to the unsuccessful launch of IRNSS-1H on August 31 last year, he said it was a peculiar case.

“Very marginal deviation created a problem. Notwithstanding that what we did is we went through a rigorous process of analyzing and have made the system more robust”, the ISRO chief said.

Kumar said to identify the cause of the incident, a team was formed which carried out various simulations and review process was taken up by the scientists.

“Each time you encounter a problem you come out of it. You need not worry about the failure. If you have not failed it means, you have not tried hard enough. So, we need not worry about setbacks”, he said.

Kumar said launch vehicle technology was a very complex thing and in spite of hundreds of successes, there can still be a failure.

“That is why it is called as risky business. So what we need to clearly understand is that each time it makes the system more and more robust, learn the deficiency and keep improving”, he added.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) Director K Sivan, who has been named the successor to Kumar, termed as ‘excellent’ today’s launch and credited the entire ISRO team for the success.

He also noted that many international customers approached the ISRO for the launch immediately after the PSLV-C39 failure and it showed the confidence that they have in the agency’s workhorse launch vehicle.

“We will be definitely meeting their expectations in the future also. This mission is definitely showing the green flag for the exciting high profile missions in 2018 such as the Chandryaan 2, GSLV Mark-3 then GSAT-11,” he said.

Director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre P Kunhikrishnan lauded ISRO scientists for opening the year with a success.

This mission proved the effectiveness of all corrective measures taken in PSLV C-40 “making the vehicle more robust and reliable,” he said.

Multiple projects were underway at the spaceport to ramp up ISRO’s launch capabilities, he said.

He said the second vehicle assembly building project was in the final phase of completion and it would meet the future launch requirements from the second launch pad.