India’s second mission to the Moon was called off due to a “technical snag” in its most powerful rocket.
Scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) were assessing the seriousness of the problem with the heavylift rocket GSLV Mk-III rocket carrying the satellite that put a halt to the ambitious Rs 976 crore lunar mission.
The ISRO was tightlipped as to what may have caused the glitch that occurred when liquid propellant was being loaded into the rocket’s indigenous cryogenic upper stage engine.
But several space scientists said the space agency must be appreciated for calling off the launch of rather than hurrying into a major disaster.
Watched by President Ram Nath Kovind, the countdown to the launch of Chandrayaan-2 on board Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-Mk-III, dubbed as ‘Baahubali’, was scheduled for 2.51 am on 16 July.
The mission was stopped 56 minutes and 24 seconds before lift-off at 1.55 am following an announcement from the Mission Control Centre.
Confusion prevailed for several minutes before the ISRO came out with an official confirmation about the launch being cancelled.
“A technical snag was observed in the launch vehicle system at t-minus 56 minutes. As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan 2 launch has been called off for today,” ISRO Associate Director (Public Relations) B R Guruprasad said. He did not specify the nature of the snag.
The space agency had earlier scheduled the launch in the first week of January but shifted it to July 15.
The lift-off of the three-component spacecraft weighing 3,850 kg and comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover was scheduled from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.
The satellite is supposed to explore the uncharted lunar south pole, 11 years after ISRO’s successful first lunar mission― Chandrayaan-1, which made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009.
It would have taken 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases.
Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission ever undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 would make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China.
“ISRO has an exceptional success rate when it comes to launching systems. Checking and diagnosing complex systems in a rocket till the last minute is an art by itself, which they seem to have mastered, said Rajesh Kumble Nayak, head of the Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences India in Kolkata’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).
I am glad that people at ISRO decided to hold back rather than hurrying into a major disaster. I guess the mission will be held back for a few weeks, which is much better than a failure, Nayak told PTI.
(With PTI inputs)