European Space Agency’s antennas to track India’s Chandrayaan-3, Aditya-L1

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India’s third moon mission Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1 satellite will be tracked by the antennas of European Space Agency (ESA).

According to ESA, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch two pioneering scientific spacecraft in 2022, one to study the Sun, and one to land on the Moon.

The Indian government had recently told the Rajya Sabha that the Chandrayaan-3 mission is tentatively planned during the third quarter of 2022.

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft will carry a lander and rover modules. The lander module will land on the surface of the moon carrying the rover.

The objectives of the mission are safe and soft landing Rover roving on the moon and in-situ scientific experiments. Towards this, activities are in advanced stages of integration and testing, the Indian government had said.

On the other hand, the Aditya-L1 satellite mission is to study the Sun.

“ESA’s global deep-space communication antennas will provide essential support to both missions (Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1) every step of the way, tracking the spacecraft, pinpointing their locations at crucial stages, transmitting commands and receiving telemetry and valuable science data,” the space agency said.

ESA’s Kourou antenna and the Goonhilly station, the UK, will be added to the NASA deep space stations supporting the mission and provide similar support to Chandrayaan-3 as they will to Aditya-L1.

The ESA station support for both Aditya-L1 and Chandrayaan-3 begins with the critical launch and early orbit phase and continues to the end of both missions, if required by ISRO.

According to ESA, its involvement in the Aditya-L1 mission has already begun.

“ISRO’s flight dynamics team tested the software they will use to precisely determine the location and orbit of Aditya-L1 on ESA’s Gaia observatory. ESA’s flight dynamics experts then used their decades of experience flying spacecraft across the solar system to validate this software by comparing ISRO’s results to their own measurements,” the ESA said.

Meanwhile, radio frequency compatibility tests were important to ensure the hardware used by both agencies can work together took place in December 2021, the ESA added.

The ESA said the big iron’ 35-metre deep space Estrack antennas, located in New Norcia, Australia; Malargue, Argentina; and Cebreros, Spain, will all support Aditya-L1.

Additional support will be provided by ESA’s 15-metre antenna at Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and the commercial 32-metre deep space antenna at Goonhilly station in the UK.

The combined ESA and Goonhilly antennas will provide tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) support for Aditya-L1, with ISRO’s deep space antennas in India providing additional communication time.

Data and telemetry sent back by Aditya-L1 arriving through any of the ground stations will be forwarded to ESA’s ESOC mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. From there, they will be sent to ISRO’s ISTRAC facility for analysis.

In June 2021, ESA and ISRO signed an agreement to provide technical support to each other, including tracking and communication services to upcoming Indian space missions through ESA’s ground stations.

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