Monday, November 29, 2004

India's moon mission control station in Bangalore

India's moon mission control station in Karnataka:
Indo-Asian News Service

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up an earth station for its first moon mission.

The Karnataka government had agreed to allot about 100 acres of land in Tavarakare in Bangalore south sub-district for the station to monitor Chandrayan-1 spacecraft that will orbit the moon, G. Madhavan Nair, the ISRO chairman, said here Sunday.

"We have identified and inspected the land for setting up the Rs.1-billion earth station. The station will exchange the voluminous data with the lunar orbiter at a distance of 400,000 km from the earth," Nair told IANS on the sidelines of a conference.

The land cost is estimated at about Rs.200 million. The total cost of the moon mission is projected to be Rs.3.9 billion ($87 million) as of now.

The deep space network with a 100-foot diameter antenna dish will have ground and surveillance systems to track the unmanned lunar probe and subsequent missions of the ISRO.

"The station will be ready and operational by mid-2007 for launching Chandrayan during late 2007 or early 2008. The 529-kg spacecraft will be positioned at an altitude of 100 km from the moon to conduct experiments on its surface, explore its origins and detect the presence of any form of life on it," Nair said.

In the run up to its maiden launch on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, ISRO has started fabricating the spacecraft that will have 55-kg payload of on-board instruments.

"We have decided to carry a 20-kg impactor besides 25 kg of payload as piggyback in the spacecraft. The additional payload will be five foreign experimental instruments from the US, Britain, Germany, France, and the European Space Agency," Nair said.

Taking the cue from space-and-defence scientist-President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, ISRO has decided to drop the impactor on the moon to study the huge dust it is expected to kick up after hitting the lunar surface at a very high velocity, with its instruments intact.

"We want to see how a small prop can be dropped on the moon so that we can learn a lot of technologies and analyse the dust it will kick up after impacting the surface," Nair said.

The space agency has modified the design and fabrication of Chandrayan to integrate the impactor that will descend on the lunar surface on a hard-landing mode once the spacecraft is slotted in the lunar orbit at a distance of 100 km.

Though Chandrayan will eventually crash into the lunar surface after two years of orbiting, ISRO wants to make an early assessment of the moon and its features with the impactor's instruments.

"We want to collect the specific data of the lunar surface with the impactor in the earlier stages so as to make use of it (data) to design the spacecraft of future lunar missions," Nair pointed out.

The impactor's instruments will study the dust particles expected to remain suspended in the airless lunar atmosphere for sufficient time to analyse the chemical composition of its surface.

Asked whether ISRO plans to launch more unmanned lunar probes after Chandrayan, Nair said such missions would be a logical step.

"If the data from Chandrayan is promising and exciting, we will certainly go for more such missions in the next decade," he said.


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