CHANDRAYAAN-1India’s First Lunar Exploration Mission. Moon Mineralogy Mapper observations point to possibility of water on the Moon!

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to Moon, was launched successfully on October 22, 2008 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota. The spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. The spacecraft carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria.



After the successful completion of all the major mission objectives, the orbit has been raised to 200 km during May 2009. The satellite made more than 3400 orbits around the moon and the mission was concluded when the communication with the spacecraft was lost on August 29, 2009.

The idea of undertaking an Indian scientific mission to Moon was initially mooted in a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1999 that was followed up by discussions in the Astronautical Society of India in 2000.

Based on the recommendations made by the learned members of these forums, a National Lunar Mission Task Force was constituted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Leading Indian scientists and technologists participated in the deliberations of the Task Force that provided an assessment on the feasibility of an Indian Mission to the Moon as well as dwelt on the focus of such a mission and its possible configuration.

After detailed discussions, it was unanimously recommended that India should undertake the Mission to Moon, particularly in view of the renewed international interest in moon with several exciting missions planned for the new millennium. In addition, such a mission could provide the needed thrust to basic science and engineering research in the country including new challenges to ISRO to go beyond the Geostationary Orbit. Further, such a project could also help bringing in young talents to the arena of fundamental research. The academia would also find participation in such a project intellectually rewarding.

Subsequently, Government of India approved ISRO’s proposal for the first Indian Moon Mission, called Chandrayaan-1 in November 2003.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions. One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both near and far side of the moon. It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium & Thorium with high spatial resolution.

Various mission planning and management objectives were also met. The mission goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft and the launch vehicle with suitable ground support systems including Deep Space Network (DSN) station were realised, which were helpful for future explorations like the Mars Orbiter Mission. Mission goals like spacecraft integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar polar orbit of about 100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/ telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilisation by scientists were also met.

PSLV-C11
PSLV-C11, chosen to launch Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, was an updated version of ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle standard configuration. Weighing 320 tonne at lift-off, the vehicle used larger strap-on motors (PSOM-XL) to achieve higher payload capability.

PSLV is the trusted workhorse launch Vehicle of ISRO. During September 1993- April 2008 period, PSLV had twelve consecutively successful launches carrying satellites to Sun Synchronous, Low Earth and Geosynchronous Transfer Orbits. On October 22, 2008, its fourteenth flight launched Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

By mid 2008, PSLV had repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility by launching 29 satellites into a variety of orbits. Of these, ten remote sensing satellites of India, an Indian satellite for amateur radio communications, a recoverable Space Capsule (SRE-1) and fourteen satellites from abroad were put into polar Sun Synchronous Orbits (SSO) of 550-820 km heights. Besides, PSLV has launched two satellites from abroad into Low Earth Orbits of low or medium inclinations. This apart, PSLV has launched KALPANA-1, a weather satellite of India, into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

PSLV was initially designed by ISRO to place 1,000 kg class Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into 900 km polar SunSynchronous Orbits. Since the first successful flight in October 1994, the capability of PSLV was successively enhanced from 850 kg to 1,600 kg. In its ninth flight on May 5, 2005 from the Second Launch Pad (SLP), PSLV launched ISRO’s remote sensing satellite,1,560 kg CARTOSAT-1 and the 42 kg Amateur Radio satellite, HAMSAT, into a 620 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit. The improvement in the capability over successive flights has been achieved through several means. They include increased propellant loading in the stage motors, employing composite material for the satellite mounting structure and changing the sequence of firing of the strap-on motors.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, designed and developed PSLV-C11. ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU) at Thiruvananthapuram developed the inertial systems for the vehicle. Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), also at Thiruvananthapuram, developed the liquid propulsion stages for the second and fourth stages of PSLV-C11 as well as reaction control systems. SDSC SHAR processed the solid motors and carries out launch operations. ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) provide telemetry, tracking and command support during PSLV-C11’s flight

Who can submit a Proposal?

Proposals could be submitted by individuals or a group of scientists and academicians belonging to recognized institutions, universities, planetaria and government organisations of India. Only those having at least a minimum remaining service of four years before superannuation are eligible to lead the project as PI/Co-PI. The proposals must be forwarded through the Head of the Institution, with appropriate assurance for providing necessary facilities for carrying out the projects under this AO programme. The end….