India sets course for the Moon: ISRO's Chandrayaan 3 mission lifts off successfully


The Chandrayaan 3 mission has just lifted off for the Moon. The Indian space program has thus awakened from its lethargy after the hard years of the pandemic.

In addition, this serves to bring them closer in their already lost space race with China. They led the race for a short period of time, but underfunding and delays in India gave the dragon country the advantage.

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The GSLV MK3 behaved nominally during the 15+ minutes between ignition and separation of the ship. In that time over 350 tons of 3 different types of fuels were burned.

At the time of takeoff, only the S200s were turned on. These solid fuel booster rockets provide full thrust at launch. Once they are exhausted, the hydrazine-fueled main stage is ignited. This is the major peculiarity of this rocket, the aerial ignition of its main engines.

These are the Vikas Full thrust. After shutdown the main stage separated and Chandrayaan 3 continued its journey with the last stage of the rocket. It is powered by hydrolox.

In the previous mission, Chandrayaan 2, the initial orbit was more than 45,000 kilometers apogee by 170 kilometers perigee. According to ISRO, this generated stability problems and was changed for this flight. Finally this one will be 36570×170, a transfer-type trajectory to geocentric orbit instead of the highly elliptical one of its predecessor. The curious thing is that such an extremely low perigee is maintained, since the rocket should have the capacity for more. Thanks mainly to the reduction in apogee. But this very low perigee forces the use of the probe's on-board engine very soon after liftoff. Otherwise, the probe would disintegrate in just a few days.

Chandrayaan 3 comes from Sanskrit where "yaan" is ship and "Chandra" means Moon.

Then the official name of the mission in English would be a simple lunar spacecraft 3. This sequence is followed in the rest of the planetary probes. Mangal for Mars, Sukra for Venus, those being the Sanskrit names of each planet.

Chandrayaan 3 is divided into two ships quite independent of each other. The first, called the propulsion module, is a system with little meaning beyond its name. In the predecessor, with an identical design, this was a full scientific orbiter with a panoply of sensors and instruments. In this repetition of the failed part of Chandrayaan 2, it was decided to limit as much as possible the part that would remain in orbit as the satellite of the previous mission was in good health. And therefore all the equipment needed for this new one is already on the Moon and mass and money could be saved.

The other section is the landing module, the reason for the existence of this project. After the failure of Pychram and Vikram lander and rover respectively of Chandrayaan 2 it was decided to repeat this part. It was named Chandrayaan 3 and work was started.

Today, 4 years later that work has paid off and it is expected that India will again attempt to become the 4th country to land on the Moon in about a month and a half.

Martin Morala Andres