Countdown: Chandrayaan-3 Smart Landing on Dark Side of Moon

July 3, 2023

BETWEEN JULY 12 AND 19, 2023, Chandrayaan-3 will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mk-III) rocket, also known as the Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM-3). Chandrayaan-3 will be the rocket’s sixth orbital flight; it has so far succeeded in all of its flights, including two commercial missions.

Chandrayaan-1, the first moon rocket, was launched in 2008 and successfully put into lunar orbit. Chandrayaan-2 was successfully launched and placed into lunar orbit in 2019, but its lander, Vikram, crash-landed on the Moon’s surface on September 6, 2019, when it diverted from its route while attempting to touch down owing to a software malfunction.

THE INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANISATION (ISRO) has laid out three objectives for its Chandrayaan-3 interplanetary mission:

  • Achieving a secure and gentle touchdown on the lunar surface with a lander
  • Observing and showcasing the rover’s lunar loitering abilities
  • In situ scientific observation, meaning doing tests on the chemical and natural elements—soil, water and other things—on the Moon's surface to learn more about what the Moon is made up of and how to study it. Interplanetary means making, and showing off, new technologies that will be needed for trips between two planets

THE TOTAL WEIGHT OF CHANDRAYAAN-3 is 3,900 kilograms. It will have a lander, a rover and a propulsion module. The propulsion module, alone, weighs 2,148 kg and it will put the lander and rover in a 100-kilometre orbit around the Moon. The lander and the rover are both in the lander module, which weighs 1,752 kilograms. The rover weighs 26 kilograms.

ISRO WILL SPEND RS 600 CRORES to get the Chandrayaan-3 project off the ground. Even though this is expensive, it is not the most expensive mission ISRO has ever done. The Chandrayaan-2 mission cost more than Rs 960 crores.

THE NAMES, VIKRAM, FOR THE LANDER, and Pragyan, for the rover, will be carried over to the Chandrayaan-3 mission, according to the ISRO Chairman. This choice honours the 2019 Chandrayaan-2 lunar adventure, while also demonstrating India’s dedication to its space exploration tradition.

The main issue with Chandrayaan-2 was that it failed to soft-land on the Moon’s surface and, hence, lost touch with ISRO’s base station 400 metres away from landing. This is how the technology of Chandrayaan-3 improves the design to ensure a flawless soft-landing. Among the notable modifications are the simplified Payload. As opposed to Chandrayaan-2, which was fitted with the lander Vikram, an orbiter and rover Pragyan, Chandrayaan-3 will carry only a rover and a lander. The orbiter that was launched with Chandrayaan-2 will still be in use.


  • When Chandrayaan-3 is sent into space, it will have a propulsion module, a rover and a lander craft. It will not have an orbiter like the Chandrayaan-2 project. ISRO says the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is operational and continues to perform imaging and remote-sensing from a height of 100 kilometres above the lunar surface. The orbiter will also be utilized for communication purposes during the mission. This orbiter was sent into space with nine in situ devices that are still working in the Moon’s orbit
  • ISRO wants to see the parts of the Moon’s surface that have not been seen in a long time, such as the parts that have not seen sunlight over billions of years. Scientists and astronomers think these deep, unexplored parts of the Moon’s surface may have ice, water and lots of rich minerals and elements
  • Even though Chandrayaan-2 crashed in 2019, the rover on Chandrayaan-3 will communicate with Earth through the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter that was saved. At 100 kilometres from the Moon’s orbit, it will use a special camera to take high-resolution shots of the surface to study it
  • The special thing about the lander is that it will be similar to the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 launched in 2019, but it will have improvements to make sure it lands safely
  • The lander module will generate 738 watts of poser, the rover 50 watts and the propulsion module 758 watts

1) Propulsion Module (PM)
2) Indigenous Lander Module, Vikram
3) Rover, Pragyaan

The lander, rover and propulsion modules will each be equipped with their respective scientific or research payloads. The Propulsion Module (PM) will transport the lander-rover configuration to a 100-kilometre lunar orbit. The lander module and propulsion module will separate once they reach this orbit. After separation, the propulsion module will remain in orbit around the Moon and serve as a communications relay satellite.

THE PROPULSION MODULE WILL BE a box-like structure with a huge solar panel on one side and a massive cylinder on top. The cylinder, known as the Intermodule Adapter Cone, will serve as the lander’s mounting framework. The main thruster nozzle is placed at the bottom of the propulsion module.

Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHaPE): Researching the polarimetric and spectral measurements of Earth from the lunar orbit with data collected on how habitable Earth is. It also contributes to the study of exoplanetary habitability and the quest for potential life outside our solar system.

THE CHANDRAYAAN-3 LANDER WAS MEANT to land softly on the Moon at a specific location and deploy the rover whose goal is to undertake in situ chemical study of the lunar surface. The lander module will be carried to the final 100-kilometre circular orbit by the propulsion module. The lander module and propulsion module will separate once they reach this orbit.

THE LANDER FEATURES FOUR LANDING LEGS and four landing thrusters. The Chandrayaan-2 was powered by five 800 Newton motors.

Based on the lessons learnt from Chandrayaan-2, Chandrayaan-3 includes ‘lander hazard identification and avoidance cameras’ to help with coordination with the orbiter and mission control throughout the lander’s descent to the lunar surface. In comparison to its predecessor, Chandrayaan-3 will have two such cameras. Another distinguishing element of the lander for the third lunar mission is the addition of a Laser Doppler Velocimeter or LDV which measure the velocity of the lander during its descent and landing on the Moon. This information will be used to ensure that the lander touches down safely and accurately.

The lander’s vertical velocity which touches on the lunar surface should be less than two metres per second and its horizontal velocity should be less than 0.5 metres per second. The slope cannot be greater than 120 degrees.


  • Radio Anatomy of Moon-Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere (RAMBHA): Payload for researching the atmosphere and ionosphere of Moon
  • Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE): Payload for gauging the temperature of the lunar surface and its thermal conductivity
  • Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA): This payload will measure the seismicity of the Moon
  • Langmuir Probe (LP): This payload will estimate the plasma density and its variations in the lunar environment
  • Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA): A passive device that does not require any power or maintenance, so it is not considered to be a part of the lander’s main scientific payload. It is a valuable tool for lunar exploration and it will be used to measure the distance between the lander and orbiting spacecraft. This information can be used to track the lander’s position and study the lunar surface

THE ROVER IN CHANDRAYAAN 3 IS DESIGNED to conduct in situ chemical analysis of the lunar surface. The rover will be able to travel up to 500 metres from the lander, which will allow it to explore a wider area of the lunar surface. This will help scientists to better understand the composition of the lunar surface and search for signs of life.

The rover is also equipped with a navigation camera and a communication system. The navigation camera will allow the rover to map its surroundings and avoid obstacles. The communication system will allow the rover to communicate with the lander and send data back to Earth. It is expected to operate for about 1 lunar day (14 Earth days).

The rover is a 6-wheeled, solar-powered vehicle that will be deployed from the lander after it has soft-landed on the Moon. The rover is about 2 metres long and 1 metre wide and weighs about 26 kilograms

It is rectangular in shape and has a rocker-bogie suspension system that allows it to move smoothly over rough terrain. The wheels are made of a special material that is resistant to the harsh lunar environment. The rover also has a solar panel that provides power to the vehicle’s systems.

IT WILL CARRY TWO SCIENTIFIC PAYLOADS: An Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument.

  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS): This payload will be used to analyse the elemental composition of the lunar surface. It will help scientists to better understand the composition of the lunar surface and search for signs of life. It does this by firing a beam of alpha particles at the surface of a material and then measuring the resulting X-rays
  • Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS): This payload will be used to analyse the elemental composition of the lunar surface by creating plasma using a laser. The plasma emits light at specific wavelengths, which can be used to identify the chemical elements present in the material. LIBS is a non-contact technique, which means that it can be used to analyse materials without touching them.



By Girish Linganna
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