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July 17, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 6


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to launch Chandrayaan-1, its first mission to the moon, in mid-September.

Chandrayaan-1 will be launched into an Earth orbit by ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Sutish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. After a 5.5-day lunar transfer trajectory, the Chandrayaan-1’s propulsion system will transfer it into lunar orbit, where it will maintain a 100-km orbit around the moon’s poles for two years.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission is designed to explore previously unexamined facets of lunar composition. The main objectives of this robotic mission are to investigate the distribution of different mineral and chemical elements at the lunar poles and to provide high-resolution three-dimensional mapping of the entire lunar surface.

A highly international mission, the spacecraft will feature eleven scientific payloads from six different countries. In addition to instruments developed in India, Chandrayaan-1 will carry four instruments provided by the European Space Agency — one each from the UK, Germany, Sweden and Belgium — and two from the U.S.

The U.S. contributions include the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3). The MiniSAR will search for ice deposits near the lunar poles, while the M3 will employ two types of high-resolution images to create the first map of the entire lunar surface as it charts its mineral composition. The M3 will also search the moons surface for recent impacts.

The U.S. and India have a long history of space collaboration. The first rocket launched from India in 1963 was a U.S.-made Nike-Apache rocket. In the mid-1970s, NASA repositioned its Application Technology Satellite (ATS-6) to help India realize its Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE). In the 1980s, all four of the satellites used in the first series of the India National Satellite (INSAT) System were built in the U.S.

Read more about Chandrayaan-1.

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