The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which failed to land a probe on Moon in its first attempt in September 2019 (Chandrayaan-2), is set to launch Chandrayaan-3 this year. The third Moon mission is estimated to cost more than Rs 600 crore.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Isro chairman K Sivan said: “We are looking at a launch this year, but it may spillover to early next year. Chandrayaan-3 will have a lander, rover and a propulsion module given that the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is fully functional. The government has approved the project and we have formed the project team.” functional. The government has approved the project and we have formed the project team.”
Breaking up the cost, Sivan said that the lander, rover and propulsion module will cost Rs 250 crore, while launch service will cost another Rs 365 crore. “Together the cost would be Rs 615 crore,” he said, while another official told TOI that the internal target set for the crucial launch is November 2020. On Tuesday, agencies quoted Union minister Jitendra Singh saying that the launch will take place this year.
TOI was the first to report that Isro had begun work on Chandrayaan-3 and M Vanitha, the project director of Chandrayaan-2 has been transferred making way for P Veeramuthuvel.
Confirming this, Sivan said: “It is an Isro team, everybody is from our organisation. Yes, Veeramuthuvel has been identified as the project director. He was also associated with the Chandrayaan-2 mission.”
No stress on resources
Allaying concerns that big-ticket projects like Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaan and Aditya (Sun mission) will hamper other missions the space agency has in its pipeline, Sivan said that there is no stress on Isro resources and that work will happen simultaneously.
“We are looking at more than 25 missions this year and are confident that each project work will happen simultaneously,” Sivan said.
Sivan had, in January 2019, set a target of about 30 missions for the year, but Isro managed only 13. “It was not because we were doing Chandrayaan, but because there was a delay in the supply of equipment needed for satellite missions,” Sivan added.
Another senior official said that the Indian industry must improve the quality of electronic equipment to meet the agency’s current demand. “Earlier, we never spoke of numbers, but now we can assure that, and yet, we don’t have a good response from the industry,” the official said.
SSLV & Desi GPS
Isro has demanded Rs 14,000 crore in the next budget (2020-21), Sivan said, and added that among the big projects in 2020 are: “Land acquisition for the second spaceport in Tamil Nadu’s Kulasekarapattinam in Tuticorin … We will need about 2,300 acres for this.”
Isro has already requested for Rs 120 crore for a new launchpad for SSLV (small satellite launch vehicle), which will be part of this proposed spaceport. Tamil Nadu government will acquire the land and transfer it to Isro. Sivan also said the first experimental flight of SSLV will happen this year at Sriharikota, while Aditya mission is scheduled for mid-2020.
“We’ve also made progress with letting private players build PSLV, and we will enhance their participation even with SSLV,” he said.
He added that the international agency regulating use of GPS-like systems in mobile phones has approved NaVIC — India’s own version of GPS — for use in mobiles.
“NaVIC will soon be available for mobile phones. US chipmaker Qualcomm has collaborated with Isro on this,” Sivan said.