Monday, July 15, 2024

India’s ‘Bahubali’ rocket LVM3 lifts off with Chandrayaan-3

India’s heavy lift rocket-LVM3 carrying the 3,897.89 kg Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft blasted off from the Sriharikota spaceport on Friday afternoon.

At about 2.35 p.m. the LVM3 rocket breaking free from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here began ascending towards the skies with a strong deep growl that reverberated like a thunder roll.

The 43.5 metre tall rocket weighing about 642 ton furiously rushed towards the skies with thick orange flame leaving behind an anaconda like long and thick white smoke.

The rocket is nicknamed as `Bahubali’ as like the well built hero in the successful film lifting a heavy Lingam, the rocket carries the 3.8-tonne Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft.

Just over 16 minutes into its flight, the rocket will sling the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft into lunar polar orbit.

From there it will be a long journey for Chandrayaan-3 as the distance between the earth and the moon is about 3.844 lakh km.

The Indian space agency will raise the spacecraft by a series of manoeuvres to put it on Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft comprises a propulsion module (weighing 2,148 kg), a lander (1,723.89 kg) and a rover (26 kg), the ISRO said.

Incidentally, the Chandrayaan-2 payload also weighed about 3.8 ton with the orbiter weighing 2,379 kg, the Vikram lander 1,444 kg, including the Pragyan rover 27 kg.

During the Chandrayaan-2 mission ISRO had named the lander as Vikram in memory of country’s space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai and rover Pragyan means wisdom in Sanskrit.

But this time around, ISRO has not officially named the lander and the rover.

Be that as it may, ISRO said the propulsion module has Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and Polari metric measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit.

The lander payloads are: Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature; Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site; Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate the plasma density and its variations.

A passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA is accommodated for lunar laser ranging studies.

On the other hand, the rover will carry: Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) for deriving the elemental composition in the vicinity of the landing site, ISRO said.

The Indian space agency said, the moon mission is divided into three phases – the earth centric phase (Pre-Launch, Launch and Ascent and Earth-bound Manoeuvre), the Lunar Transfer Phase (Transfer Trajectory), and the Moon Centric Phase (Lunar Orbit Insertion Phase, Moon-bound Manoeuvre Phase, Propulsion Module and Lunar Module Separation, De-boost Phase, Pre-landing Phase, Landing Phase, Normal Phase for Lander and Rover, Moon Centric Normal Orbit Phase -100 km circular orbit- for Propulsion Module).

During the first phase, the LVM3 rocket will carry the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft to space.

Till date, the LVM3 rocket has an impeccable record of six consecutive successful missions. This is the fourth operational flight of LVM3, and aims to launch the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft to Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The lander will get separated from the propulsion module a couple of days after it enters lunar orbit and is expected to make a soft-landing near the South Pole of the moon on August 23 or 24.

The lander will descend to the moon from a height of about 100 km from the moon’s surface.

The soft landing is a tricky issue as it involves a series of complex manoeuvres consisting of rough and fine braking.

Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones.

Subsequent to the soft landing, the six-wheeled rover will roll out and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day which is equal to 14 Earth days.

The life of the payloads carried by the propulsion module post ejection of the lander is between three and six months.

On the other hand, the mission life of the lander and the rover is 1 Lunar day or 14 earth days, ISRO said.

The success of Chandrayaan-3 mission – soft landing by the lander- will make India the fourth country in the world to land and ride on the Moon surface after the US, Russia and China.

India launched its first Moon mission Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008 using its light rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the second mission was on July 22, 2019 with the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III now renamed as LVM3.

The third moon mission is a follow up of the failed Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019 as the lander Vikram crashed on to the moon surface.

As regards the changes made in the lander this time as compared to the one that crash landed on the moon during the Chandrayaan-2 mission, a senior ISRO official told IANS that the lander has four motors instead of five.

The space agency has also carried out some changes in the software.

The LVM3 with a capacity to carry four tons, is a three stage/engine rocket with two strap-on motors powered by solid fuel. The second stage is a core liquid fuel booster and the third is the cryogenic engine.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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