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Chandrayaan-3’s Propulsion Module shifts orbit from Moon to Earth, says ISRO. All you need to know

ISRO confirmed that the PM fulfilled its main goal, transporting the lander module from the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) to the final lunar polar circular orbit, and achieving successful separation as intended.

Following separation, ISRO operated the Spectropolarimetry of the HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload within the PM. Originally slated for a three-month operation during the PM’s mission life, optimised orbital maneuvers left over 100 kg of fuel after over a month in lunar orbit.

Also Read | Chandrayaan-3, India mission to Moon, sleeps forever: Here’s what next for Pragyan rover, Vikram lander

Using excess fuel for extended missions

Given the surplus fuel, ISRO opted to leverage this to gather additional data for upcoming lunar missions and showcase operational strategies for future sample return missions.

To facilitate continued earth observation via the SHAPE payload, ISRO strategically re-orbited the PM to a suitable earth orbit. The plan prioritised collision avoidance with the Moon’s surface and Earth’s Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) belt at 36,000 km and lower orbits.

The PM’s optimal return trajectory was designed for October 2023, with precise manoeuvres altering its altitude and orbit period, eventually transitioning it away from the Moon’s sphere of influence on November 10.

Also Read | Chandrayaan-3 surprises ISRO with unplanned ‘hop experiment’ on Moon

Presently, the PM orbits Earth, crossing its first perigee on November 22 at an altitude of 1.54 lakh km, with 13 days and a 27-degree inclination. ISRO assures no threat to operational Earth-orbiting satellites based on orbit predictions.

Ongoing operations

ISRO continues operating the SHAPE payload during Earth’s visibility, even conducting a special operation during a solar eclipse on October 28, 2023.

ISRO’s flight dynamics team developed analysis tools and software modules for trajectory planning and execution, gravity-assisted fly-bys, and ensured controlled termination of the PM’s life without debris creation.

Also Read | Part of Chandrayaan-3 launcher makes uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere: ISRO

ISRO has outlined the primary results of the return manoeuvres performed on the PM for future missions: planning and executing the trajectory back from the Moon to Earth, creating software for this manoeuvre and validating it, performing a gravity-assisted fly-by around a planet or celestial body, and ensuring controlled termination of the PM to prevent debris upon its end of life on the Moon’s surface.

Chandrayaan-3 – a success

The Chandrayaan-3 mission aimed to demonstrate a soft landing near the lunar south pole, and conduct experiments via instruments on the ‘Vikram’ lander and ‘Pragyan’ rover.

Launched on July 14, 2023, the spacecraft achieved a historic Vikram lander touchdown on August 23, deploying the Pragyan rover for continuous scientific operations throughout one lunar day.

Watch: After Success Of Chandrayaan-3, Aditya L1, ISRO Sets Eyes On Other Planets | Details

These manoeuvres and operations demonstrate India’s advancements in space exploration and lay the groundwork for future lunar missions.

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Updated: 05 Dec 2023, 09:54 AM IST

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