India has launched the country’s second robotic mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2. The mission will attempt to touch down farther south than any mission before it. If successful, the country will be only the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the Moon.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched aboard a home-grown GSLV Mk III rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 11:14 UTC this morning. Approximately 17 minutes later, the rocket’s cryogenic upper stage placed the spacecraft into orbit. Following its deployment, officials revealed that the upper stage had burned to depletion resulting in a higher-than-expected orbit. As a result, the spacecraft will require less fuel to get to the Moon, ensuring there is more redundancy should something go wrong.
Consisting of a lunar orbiter, lander, and rover, India’s Chandrayaan-2 is the successor to the country’s first mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-1, which carried an orbiter and an impactor and was launched in 2008. The mission will be the country’s first attempt to touch down on the surface of the Moon. If successful, India will be the fourth nation to achieve this milestone behind Russia, the US, and China.
Chandrayaan-2 is expected to complete lunar orbital insertion on September 7, 2019. Once in a stable orbit around the Moon, operators back on Earth will likely spend several weeks conducting system checks ensuring all elements of the mission are healthy before initiating a landing attempt.