India launches the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander

Launching at 09:05 UTC July 14th from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, the Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) sending the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander on its way to the Moon’s Southern hemisphere.

The LVM3 is a three-stage launch vehicle designed by the Indian Space Research Organisation. The fully stacked rocket stands 43.4 meters tall and is 4 meters in diameter. In comparison, the SpaceX Falcon 9 stands 70 meters tall and is 3.7 meters in diameter. The LVM3 is capable of launching up to 10,000 kg to low Earth orbit, the fully integrated propulsion module and lander weigh in at 3,900 kg.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission is a follow-up to the Chandrayaan-2 mission which failed during its final descent to the Moon’s surface. The current mission will take approximately 40 days to enter orbit around the Moon. The reason for the long trip to the Moon is the lander was inserted into a highly elliptical orbit and is making smaller more fuel-efficient burns instead of a shorter trip using a trans lunar injection burn.

The path to the Moon for Chandrayaan-3 (Credit ISRO)

The Vikram lander could make its attempt at a landing on the Moon’s surface as early as August 23. This lander has a few differences from its predecessor, switching from 5 engines to 4, strengthened landing legs, and a laser doppler velocimeter along with other redundant systems to avoid the issues that plagued the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

There are 3 scientific payloads on the lander, the Chandra Surface Thermophysical Experiment that will measure thermal conductivity and temperature on the surface of the Moon, the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity to measure for Moonquakes, and the Langmuir Probe to measure plasma density.

Riding along with the lander is the Pragyan rover which is designed to last at least 14 Earth days which is equal to one lunar day. The solar-powered six-wheeled rover weighs in at 26 kg and has an expected range of 500 meters. The rover has 2 payloads that will each measure the Moon’s composition.

If the landing is successful, India will join the United States, Russia, and China as the only countries to have made a soft landing on the Moon.

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at rangle@teslarati.com, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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