The PSLV-C11 rocket, an upgraded version of the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO’s) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, lifted off at 02:52 Central European Summer Time (CEST) and injected the spacecraft into a highly elongated orbit around the Earth.
Chandrayaan-1 is led by ISRO and the international partners include ESA, Bulgaria and the USA.
The Chandrayaan-1 launcher, ISRO's PSLV-C11, is an upgraded version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). It is visible here on the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. Credits: ISRO
This marked the beginning of Chandrayaan-1’s journey to the Moon, which will culminate with a major manoeuvre – the lunar orbit insertion – in about two weeks. Once the spacecraft is orbiting the Moon, further manoeuvres will progressively lower its altitude to the final 100 km-high circular orbit.
At the earliest opportunity, the spacecraft will eject the ‘Moon Impact Probe’ to provide information about the lunar surface. The mission will then continue from orbit, with remote-sensing studies carried out by its 11 scientific instruments. Three of these instruments were provided by Europe (UK, Germany, Sweden) through ESA.
India and Europe began collaborating on space ventures when, in 1978, the first cooperation agreement between ESA and ISRO was signed. In 1981, an Ariane 1 launcher carried India’s first geostationary satellite, Apple. So far, 13 of India’s INSAT satellites have flown on Europe’s Arianes.
Chandrayaan-1, ISRO’s first mission beyond Earth orbit, marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration between ESA and India in space science.
ESA is making the expertise gained thanks to its SMART-1 lunar mission (2003–2006) available for this collaboration. Apart from coordinating and supporting the provision of the three European instruments (C1XS, SIR-2 and SARA, versions of the first two of which flew on SMART-1), ESA assisted in areas such as flight dynamics and is supporting data archiving and processing. As a result of the collaboration, ESA and ISRO will share the data from their respective instruments.
Chandrayaan-1 mission profile. Credits: ISRO
“In an era of renewed interest for the Moon on a world-wide scale, the ESA-ISRO collaboration on Chandrayaan-1 is a new opportunity for Europe to expand its competence in lunar science while tightening the long-standing relationship with India - an ever stronger space power,” said Prof. David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. “While the exploration of space calls for new challenges to be overcome, joining forces is becoming more and more a key to future successes.”
“We congratulate ISRO on the successful launch this morning and we are eagerly looking forward to science to begin,” Southwood concluded.
The Chandrayaan-1 Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer (C1XS), developed by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK in collaboration the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore. It will measure the abundance of magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron and titanium over the surface of the Moon.
The Smart Near-Infrared Spectrometer (SIR-2), developed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Science, Germany. It will explore the mineral resources of the Moon, the formation of its surface features and the different layers of the Moon’s crust.
The Sub-kiloelectronvolt Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA), developed by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in collaboration with the Space Physics Laboratory of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, India. It will study the way the Moon’s surface interacts with the solar wind, and the surface’s magnetic anomalies.