ISRO successfully launches Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft

Indian space agency ISRO has successfully launched the 3,840kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an Earth orbit through the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII-M1. The launch marks the first operational flight of the GSLV Mk III.

The spacecraft is now revolving around Earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475km, ISRO said. Following a 20h countdown, the GSLV MkIII-M1 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

Marking India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2 carries an orbiter, a lander called Vikram and a lunar rover known as Pragyaan. It is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on 7 September. The spacecraft is a robotic mission and will not carry humans to the Moon’s surface.

ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan said: “Today is a historical day for Space Science and Technology in India. I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV Mk III-M1 successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit of 6,000km more than the intended orbit and is better.”

The GSLV Mk III vehicle is a three-stage heavy-lift rocket developed by ISRO. It has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage. Chandrayaan-2 was designed and developed to demonstrate the major technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, which includes soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface.

The mission aims to further explore the Moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere, thereby leading to better knowledge on its origin and evolution. Earlier this month, ISRO released new images of the Chandrayaan-2.

Last month, Sivan said that the country will establish its own space station within seven years, marking its biggest development in space exploration so far after launching probes to the Moon and Mars.