Chandrayaan-2, India’s second lunar mission is now just six days away from reaching Moon’s orbit as another successful mission on Wednesday put the spacecraft on the lunar trajectory.
After a 20-minute burning of the liquid engine, Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation) at 2.20am declared that the critical Trans-Lunar Insertion (TLI) operation a success.
Now, the spacecraft will travel in a straight path to reach the lunar orbit. Once it reaches the initial lunar orbit — expected on August 20 — Isro will need to perform a series of manoeuvres to bring Chandrayaan-2 down to the desired 100kmX100km orbit.
“We will perform 15 crucial operations after the launch till we land,” Isro chairman K Sivan had said. Explaining the manoeuvres around Moon, he had added that while the operations around Earth were to raise the orbits, the ones around Moon would be to lower the altitude.
“Until the separation of Vikram (lander) from the composite structure, all manoeuvres will be performed using onboard propulsions systems of the orbiter,” Sivan had told TOI.
The orbiter was packed with 1,697kg of propellant at the time of the launch, and by the end of all the Earth-bound manoeuvres, it should’ve expended more than 657kg of this.
All the operations around Moon will now use up another 749.5kg, as per Isro estimates. And, as was first reported by TOI, if everything goes as per plans, .Chandrayaan-2 may go around Moon for at least one additional year — the Indian space agency initially estimated a one-year lifespan for the orbiter.
If reaching Moon’s orbit is one part of the mission — Isro had already put a satellite around Moon in 2008 (Chandrayaan-1) — the more crucial part of Chandrayaan-2 would be to land Vikram on Moon.
“We’ll be using the same path as Chandrayaan-1 to take Chandrayaan-2 to Moon … Once the lander separates, on D-day, the last 15 minutes operation when the Lander descends on the surface will be most terrifying,” Sivan had said.
If Isro manages to successfully lands Vikram on Moon, India will enter an elite club of nations to have done this before — the US, erstwhile USSR and China.