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India likely to see two moon missions by March

Business Standard:  October 31, 2017

Bengaluru: India is all set to send two separate spacecrafts to the moon within the next five months, both of which will aim to land on the lunar surface and will carry precious payloads of rovers for exploration.

While one spacecraft will be the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) own Chandrayaan-2, the other will be from India's first private moonshot Team Indus which is competing in the Google LunarXPrize challenge.

Both the spacecrafts will ride on ISRO's launchers - the smaller Team Indus spacecraft will be launched on the workhorse PSLV, while the Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on the larger GSLV Mk II.

"In Chandrayaan-2, the orbiter is currently getting integrated at ISAC (ISRO Satellite Centre) Bangalore. The lander, rover and various instruments and the systems are undergoing tests. By the first quarter of next year, we expect to put the orbiter, lander and rover into the lunar orbit," said A S Kiran Kumar, Chairman of ISRO, on Monday.

While ISRO doesn't have any deadlines for launch of the Chandrayaan-2, Team Indus if it wants to compete for the prize money in the XPrize competition, will need to complete its mission before March 31, 2017. This will include landing on the moon, traversing 500 metres using the rover onboard and beaming back high quality images and videos to Earth.

Team Indus had earlier been offered a slot to launch its spacecraft on December 28, with the firm planning a touchdown on the lunar surface on January 26, 2017. However, the launch timeline has been pushed forward, given the recent failure of ISRO's PSLV-C39 rocket which failed to implant the IRNSS-1H navigational satellite into its orbit.

The space agency has also lined up the launch of a satellite from the Cartosat-2 series which will happen sometime in the second half of December. It is expected that between the launch of the Cartosat and Chandrayaan-2, Team Indus will be given an opportunity to launch sometime in January or February next year.

The removal of the deadline of December 31 for teams to launch their spacecraft by the Google LunarXPrize committee will mean Team Indus will still remain in the running for the prize money. Rahul Narayan, founder of Team Indus told Business Standard that the company was in discussions with ISRO to figure out a new launch date.

While both ISRO and Team Indus' spacecrafts will travel to the moon, their configurations are widely different. The Chandrayaan-2 will use an orbiter which will orbit the moon, and from which a lander carrying a rover will descend. Team Indus' spacecraft will double as the lander and is far lighter at 600 kilogram (at takeoff) compared to 2,650 kilogram Chandrayaan-2.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.