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Chandrayaan-1 lifts off on the PSLV-C11
Organization Indian Space Research Organisation
Mission type Orbiter
Satellite of Moon
Orbital insertion date 12 November 2008
Launch date 22 October 2008 from Sriharikota Andhra Pradesh, India
Launch vehicle PSLV-C11[1]
Mission duration 2 years
COSPAR ID 2008-052A
Home page Chandrayaan-1
Mass 523 kg (1,153 lb)
Orbital elements
Eccentricity near circular
Inclination polar
Apoapsis initial 7,500 km (4,660 mi), final 100 km (62 mi), final (wef 19 May 2009) 200 km (124 mi)
Periapsis initial 500 km (311 mi), final 100 km (62 mi), final (wef 19 May 2009) 200 km (124 mi)

Chandrayaan-1, (Sanskrit: चंद्रयान-१, lit: Moon-vehicle pronunciation ) is India's first mission to the Moon launched by India's national space agency the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The unmanned lunar exploration mission includes a lunar orbiter and an impactor. India launched the spacecraft by a modified version of the PSLV, PSLV C11 on 22 October 2008 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh about 80 km north of Chennai at 06:22 IST (00:52 UTC). The mission is a major boost to India's space program, as India competes with Asian nations China and Japan in exploring the Moon. The vehicle was successfully inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008.

On November 14, 2008, the Moon Impact Probe separated from the Moon-orbiting Chandrayaan at 20:06 and impacted the lunar south pole in a controlled manner, making India the fourth country to place its flag on the Moon. The MIP impacted near the crater Shackleton, at the lunar south pole, at 20:31 on 14 November 2008 releasing subsurface debris that could be analysed for presence of water ice.

The estimated cost for the project is Rs. 386 crore (US$ 80 million).

The remote sensing lunar satellite had a weight of 1,380 kilograms (3,042 lb) at launch and 675 kilograms (1,488 lb) in lunar orbitand carries high resolution remote sensing equipment for visible, near infrared, and soft and hard X-ray frequencies. Over a two-year period, it is intended to survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and 3-dimensional topography. The polar regions are of special interest, as they might contain ice. The lunar mission carries five ISRO payloads and six payloads from other international space agencies including NASA, ESA, and the Bulgarian Aerospace Agency, which were carried free of cost.


The stated scientific objectives of the mission are:

  • To design, develop, launch and orbit a spacecraft around the Moon using an Indian-made launch vehicle.
  • Conduct scientific experiments using instruments on-board the spacecraft which will yield the following results:
    • Preparation of a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution of 5-10 m) of both the near and far side of the Moon.
    • Chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface at high spatial resolution, mapping particularly the chemical elements Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron, Titanium, Radon, Uranium, & Thorium.
    • The impact of a sub-satellite (Moon Impact Probe — MIP) on the surface on the Moon as a fore-runner to future soft-landing missions.


1380 kg at launch, 675 kg at lunar orbit, and 523 kg after releasing the impactor.
Cuboid in shape of approximately 1.5 m
X band, 0.7 m diameter parabolic antenna for payload data transmission. The Telemetry, Tracking & Command (TTC) communication operates in S band frequency.
The spacecraft is mainly powered by its solar array, which includes one solar panel covering a total area of 2.15 x 1.8 m generating 700 W of power, which is stored in a 36 A·h lithium-ion battery. The spacecraft uses a bipropellant integrated propulsion system to reach lunar orbit as well as orbit and altitude maintenance while orbiting the Moon.

Specific areas of study

  • High-resolution mineralogical and chemical imaging of the permanently shadowed north and south polar regions.
  • Search for surface or sub-surface water-ice on the Moon, especially at the lunar poles.
  • Identification of chemicals in lunar highland rocks.
  • Chemical stratigraphy of lunar crust by remote sensing of the central uplands of large lunar craters, and of the South Pole Aitken Region (SPAR), where interior material may be expected.
  • To map the height variation of the lunar surface features.
  • Observation of X-ray spectrum greater than 10 keV and stereographic coverage of most of the Moon's surface with 5 m resolution
  • To provide new insights in understanding the Moon's origin and evolution.


Chandrayaan 1
Chandrayaan 1

The scientific payload has a total mass of 90 kg and contains six Indian instruments and five foreign instruments.

Indian Payloads

  • TMC or the Terrain Mapping Camera is a CCD camera with 5 m resolution and a 40 km swath in the panchromatic band and will be used to produce a high-resolution map of the Moon. The aim of this instrument is to completely map the topography of the Moon. The camera works in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum and captures black and white stereo images. When used in conjunction with data from Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI), it can help in better understanding of the lunar gravitational field as well. TMC was built by the ISRO's Space Applications Centre (SAC) at Ahmedabad. The TMC was successfully tested on 29 October 2008 through a set of commands issued from ISTRAC.
  • HySI or Hyper Spectral Imager will perform mineralogical mapping in the 400-900 nm band with a spectral resolution of 15 nm and a spatial resolution of 80 m.
  • LLRI or Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument determines the height of the surface topography by sending pulses of infrared laser light towards the lunar surface and detecting the reflected portion of that light. It will be operating all the time and will take 10 measurements per second on both the day and night sides of the Moon. It was successfully tested on 16 November 2008.
  • C1XS or X-ray fluorescence spectrometer covering 1- 10 keV, will map the abundance of Mg, Al, Si, Ca, Ti, and Fe at the surface with a ground resolution of 25 km, and will detect solar flux. This payload is collaboration between Rutherford Appleton laboratory, U.K, ESA and ISRO. It was activated on 23 November, 2008.
  • MIP or the Moon Impact Probe developed by the ISRO, is an impact probe which consisted of a C-band Radar altimeter for measurement of altitude of the probe, a video imaging system for acquiring images of the lunar surface and a mass spectrometer for measuring the constituents of the lunar atmosphere. It was ejected at 20:00 hours IST on 14 November, 2008. The Moon Impact Probe successfully crash landed at the lunar south pole at 20:31 hours IST on 14 November, 2008. It carried with it a picture of the Indian flag. India is now the fourth nation to place a flag on the Moon after the Soviet Union, United States and Japan.

Payload from Other countries

  • SARA, The Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser from the ESA will map composition using low energy neutral atoms sputtered from the surface.

Space flight

This video entitles the launch of Indian Lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-1 by PSLV C11.

Chandrayaan-1 was launched on 22 October 2008 at 6.22 am IST from Satish Dhawan Space Centre using ISRO's 44.4 metre tall four-stage PSLV launch rocket, and it took 21 days to reach final lunar orbit. ISRO's telemetry, tracking and command network (ISTRAC) at Peenya in Bangalore, will track and control Chandrayaan-1 over the next two years of its life span.

Chandrayaan-1 was sent to the Moon in a series of orbit-increasing manoeuvres around Earth instead of a direct shot to the Moon. At launch the spacecraft was inserted into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) with an apogee of 22,860 km and a perigee of 255 km. The apogee was increased with a series of five orbit burns conducted over a period of 13 days after launch.

100 days of Chandrayaan-1 launch

Scientists from India, US and Europe conducted high-level review of Chandrayaan-1 on January 29, 2009 after the Chandrayaan-1 completed its 100 days in space.

Earth orbit burns

First orbit burn

The first orbit-raising manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was performed at 09:00 hrs IST on 23 October 2008 when the spacecraft’s 440 Newton Liquid Engine was fired for about 18 minutes by commanding the spacecraft from Spacecraft Control Centre (SCC) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Peenya, Bangalore. With this Chandrayaan-1’s apogee was raised to 37,900 km, and its perigee to 305 km. In this orbit, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft took about 11 hours to go around the Earth once.

Second orbit burn

The second orbit-raising manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was carried out on 25 October 2008 at 05:48 IST when the spacecraft’s engine was fired for about 16 minutes, raising its apogee to 74,715 km, and its perigee to 336 km, thus completing 20 percent of its journey. In this orbit, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft took about twenty-five and a half hours to go round the Earth once. This is the first time an Indian spacecraft has gone beyond the 36,000 km high geostationary orbit and reached an altitude more than twice that height.

Third orbit burn

The third orbit raising manoeuvre was initiated on 26 October 2008 at 07:08 IST when the spacecraft’s engine was fired for about nine and a half minutes. With this its apogee was raised to 164,600 km, and the perigee to 348 km. In this orbit, Chandrayaan-1 took about 73 hours to go around the Earth once.

Fourth orbit burn

The fourth orbit raising manoeuvre was carried out on 29 October 2008 at 07:38 IST when the spacecraft’s engine was fired for about three minutes, raising its apogee to 267,000 km and the perigee to 465 km. This extended its orbit to a distance more than half the way to the Moon. In this orbit, the spacecraft took about six days to go around the Earth once.

Final orbit burn

The fifth and final orbit raising manoeuvre was carried out on 4 November 2008 04:56 am IST when the spacecraft’s engine was fired for about two and a half minutes resulting in Chandrayaan-1 entering the Lunar Transfer Trajectory with an apogee of about 380,000 km.

Lunar orbit insertion

Chandrayaan-1 successfully completed the lunar orbit insertion operation on 8th Nov 2008 at 16:51 IST. This manoeuvre involved firing of the liquid engine for 817 seconds (about thirteen and half minutes) when the spacecraft passed within 500 km from the Moon. The satellite was placed in an elliptical orbit that passed over the polar regions of the Moon, with 7502 km aposelene (point farthest away from the Moon) and 504 km periselene (nearest to the Moon). The orbital period was estimated to be around 11 hours. With the successful completion of this operation, India became the fifth nation to put a vehicle in lunar orbit.

First orbit reduction

First Lunar Orbit Reduction Manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-1 was carried out successfully on 9 November 2008 at 20:03 IST. During this, the engine of the spacecraft was fired for about 57 seconds. This reduced the periselene from 504 km to 200 km while aposelene remained unchanged at 7,502 km. In this elliptical orbit, Chandrayaan-1 took about ten and a half hours to circle the Moon once.

Second orbit reduction

This manoeuvre, which resulted in steep decrease in Chandrayaan-1’s aposelene from 7,502 km to 255 km and its periselene from 200 km to 187 km, was carried out on 10 November 2008 at 21:58 IST. During this manoeuvre, the engine was fired for about 866 seconds (about fourteen and half minutes). Chandrayaan-1 took two hours and 16 minutes to go around the Moon once in this orbit.

Third orbit reduction

Third Lunar Orbit Reduction was carried out by firing the on board engine for 31 seconds on 11 November 2008 at 18:30 IST. This reduced the periselene from 187 km to 101 km, while the aposelene remained constant at 255 km. In this orbit Chandrayaan-1 took two hours and 9 minutes to go around the Moon once.

Final orbit

Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was successfully placed into a mission-specific lunar polar orbit of 100 km above the lunar surface on 12 November 2008. In the final orbit reduction manoeuvre, Chandrayaan-1’s aposelene was reduced from 255 km to 100 km while the periselene was reduced from 101 km to 100 km. In this orbit, Chandrayaan-1 takes about two hours to go around the Moon once. Two of the 11 payloads – the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and the Radiation Dose Monitor (RADOM) – have already been successfully switched on. The TMC has successfully taken pictures of both the Earth and the Moon.

Injection of MIP on lunar surface

The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) crash-landed on the lunar surface on 14 November 2008, 15:01 UTC (20:31 Indian Standard Time (IST)) near the crater Shackleton at the south pole. The MIP was one of eleven scientific instruments (payloads) onboard Chandrayaan-1.

The MIP separated from Chandrayaan at 100 km from lunar surface and began its nosedive at 14:36 UTC (20:06 IST) going into a free fall for thirty minutes. As it fell, it kept sending information back to the mother satellite which, in turn, beamed the information back to Earth. The altimeter then also began recording measurements to prepare for a rover to land on the lunar surface during a second Moon mission planned for 2012. When the MIP was closer to the surface, rockets were fired to slow down its speed and to soften impact.

Following the successful deployment of MIP, the other scientific instruments were turned on one-by-one starting the next phase of the two-year mission.

Rise in space craft temperature

ISRO had reported on 25 November, 2008 that Chandrayaan-1's temperature had risen above normal to 50°C, they said that it had occurred due to higher than normal temperatures in lunar orbit. The temperature has been brought down by about 10°C by rotating the space craft by 20 degrees and switching off some of the instruments. Subsequently ISRO reported on 27 November, 2008 that the space craft was operating under normal temperature conditions. In subsequent reports ISRO says, since the space craft is still recording higher than normal temperatures, it will be running only one instrument at a time until January 2009 when lunar orbital temperature conditions are said to stabilise. The space craft was experiencing these high temperatures because it is currently over the sunlit side of the Moon, where it will be receiving energy both from the Sun and infrared radiation given off by the Moon.

Mapping of minerals

The mineral content on the lunar surface has been mapped with Moon Mineralogy Mapper(M3), a NASA instrument on board the orbiter. The presence of iron has been reiterated and changes in rock and mineral composition has been identified. Orientale Basin region of the Moon has been mapped, indicating abundance of iron-bearing minerals such as pyroxene.

Mapping of Apollo landing sites

The landing sites of the Apollo Moon missions have been mapped by the orbiter using multiple payloads. Six of the sites have been mapped including that of Apollo 11, the first mission that put humans on the Moon.

Chandrayaan beams back 40,000 images in 75 days

Chandrayaan-1 has transmitted more than 40,000 images of different types since its launch on October 22, 2008, which many in ISRO believe is quite a record compared to the lunar flights of other nations. ISRO officials estimated that if more than 40,000 images have been transmitted by Chandrayaan's cameras in 75 days, it worked out to nearly 535 images being sent daily. They are first transmitted to Indian Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore, from where they are flashed to ISRO's Telemetry Tracking And Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore.

They said some of these images have a resolution of up to 5-metre providing a sharp and clear picture of the Moon's surface. On the other hand, they said many images sent by some of the other missions had a 100-metre resolution.

On November 26, the indigenous Terrain Mapping Camera, which was first activated on October 29, 2008, took shots of peaks along with craters. This came as a surprise to ISRO officials because the Moon consists mostly of craters.

Detection of X-Ray signals

The X-ray signatures of aluminium, magnesium and silicon were picked up by the C1XS X-ray camera. The signals were picked up during a solar flare that caused an X-ray fluorescence phenomenon. The flare that caused the fluorescence was weaker that the minimum the C1XS was designed to sense but was still picked up, highlighting its sensitivity.

Full Earth image

On March 25, 2009 Chandrayaan beamed back the first images of the Earth in its entirety. These images were taken with the TMC. Previous imaging has been done on only part of the Earth. The new images show Asia, parts of Africa and Australia with India being in the center.

Chandrayaan-1 orbit raised to 200 km from moon

After the successful completion of all the major mission objectives, the orbit of Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, which was at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface since November 2008, has now been raised to 200 km. The orbit raising manoeuvres were carried out between 0900 and 1000 hours IST on May 19, 2009. The spacecraft in this higher altitude will enable further studies on orbit perturbations, gravitational field variation of the Moon and also enable imaging lunar surface with a wider swath.


The scientists considered instrumental to the success of the Chandrayaan-1 project are:

  • G. Madhavan Nair – Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation
  • Dr. T. K. Alex – Director, ISAC (ISRO Satellite Centre)
  • Mylswamy Annadurai – Project Director, Chandrayan-1
  • S. K. Shivkumar – Director - Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network.
  • Mr. M.Pitchaimani – Operations Director, Chandrayan-1
  • Mr. Leo Jackson John – Spacecraft Operations Manager, Chandrayan-1
  • Dr. K.Radhakrishnan – Director, VSSC
  • George Koshy – Mission Director,PSLV-C11
  • Srinivasa Hegde – Mission Director,Chandrayaan-1
  • M C Dattan – Director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre,Sriharikota
  • Prof. J N Goswami – Director of Physical Research Laboratory,Ahmedabad and Principal Scientific Investigator of Chandrayaan-1


ISRO is also planning a second version of Chandrayaan named Chandrayaan II. According to ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, "The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hopes to land a motorised rover on the Moon in 2012, as a part of its second Chandrayaan mission. The rover will be designed to move on wheels on the lunar surface, pick up samples of soil or rocks, do on-site chemical analysis and send the data to the mother-spacecraft Chandrayaan II, which will be orbiting above. Chandrayaan II will transmit the data to Earth."

NASA Lunar Outpost

According to Ben Bussey, senior staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Chandrayaan's imagery will be used to decide the future Lunar outpost that NASA has recently announced. Bussey told, "India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter has a good shot at further identifying possible water ice-laden spots with a US-provided low-power imaging radar." Bussey advised — one of two US experiments on the Indian Moon probe. "The idea is that we find regions of interest with Chandrayaan-1 radar. We would investigate those using all the capabilities of the radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter", Bussey added, "a Moon probe to be launched late in 2008." (The LRO was launched June 18th, 2009).

Images and Video Obtained by Chandrayaan-1

See also

External links


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Published in July 2009.

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