Rocket completes mission, India’s first moon spacecraft now in orbit (Lead)

October 22nd, 2008 - 8:36 am ICT by IANS  

ISROSriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), Oct 22 (IANS) With a perfect liftoff, India’s first spacecraft to the moon entered its scheduled orbit early Wednesday, placing the country in a select group of six. The US, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency, China and Japan have sent spacecrafts to the moon earlier.Speaking minutes after the successful liftoff from this spaceport about 80 km north of Chennai and off the Andhra Pradesh coast, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair described the moment as “historic. India has started its journey to the moon. The first leg has gone perfectly. the spacecraft has been launched into orbit.”

The 44-metre-tall 316-tonne rocket, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C11), had a copybook launch at 6.22 a.m., and completed its mission by placing the lunar orbiter Chandrayaan into its scheduled orbit around the earth within 18 minutes, just as planned.

Nair pointed out that the launch had gone off perfectly despite heavy rain in and around the spaceport for the last four days. “We’ve been fighting the odds for the last four days,” he said. But the weather gods relented Tuesday evening and the launch took place in a clear morning sky.

Chandrayaan started to orbit the earth on its geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), from which its onboard liquid apogee motor (LAM) will be fired to take it to the lunar orbit - 387,000 km from earth - around Nov 8.

Once the 1,380-kg Chandrayaan gets near the moon its speed will be reduced to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit.

At the earliest possible opportunity Chandrayaan will drop its Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which will land on the moon’s soil carrying India’s flag, among many scientific instruments. After that, the spacecraft will also activate its cameras and other instruments on board.

Chandrayaan will orbit the moon for two years. It carries 11 experimental payloads, five Indian and six from the European Space Agency (3), the US (2) and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1).

At liftoff, PSLV C11 weighed 22 tonnes more than earlier PSLV models, as its six strap-on motors were 3.5 metres bigger at 13.5 metre and the rocket carried 12 tonnes of solid propellant as against the usual 9 tonnes.

“The vehicle structure was altered to have bigger strap-on motors. The rocket is also padded up with additional thermal insulation,” George Koshy, project director, told IANS.

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