How will India benefit from space exploration

India's moon premiere: Chandrayaan 1


With Chandrayaan 1 India will advance into new dimensions and thus continue its independent path in space. Notable achievements such as the development of our own launch vehicles or the successful use of remote sensing satellites for many years now hardly attract any attention in the global media. In addition to the political upgrading, the country would like to demonstrate the transition from a developing country to an economic and technological superpower with the moon mission. With programs of this kind, the state wants to counteract the migration of highly qualified specialists abroad and encourage young Indians to take an interest in the natural sciences. Visions of this kind help to polish up the image of India in the global public and to strengthen the self-confidence of the 1.1 billion inhabitants of the subcontinent.

India's first interplanetary challenge was given the name Chandrayaan, which means "trip to the moon" in the official Hindi language. The first “trip to the moon” is to be launched with the four-stage Indian carrier rocket PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) from the Satish Dhawan space center in Sriharikota, located on the east coast of the state of Andra Pradesh.
The Indian space agency ISRO gives September 2007 as the earliest possible date. The PSLV will then place the cuboid, 1.50 meter space probe with a launch mass of 1,050 kilograms in a geostationary transfer orbit of 240 x 36,000 kilometers.

Only 100 kilometers above the surface of the moon

Chandrayaan 1, the construction of which is based on the Kalpana 1 meteorological satellite (2002), takes about six days to reach the moon. There, the probe is lowered in several stages from an initial 1,000 kilometers high to a circular orbit 100 kilometers above the surface of the moon, which - as with SMART 1 - leads over both poles. Now that it has arrived at its destination, Chandrayaan 1 still has a mass of 523 kilograms, 55 of which are accounted for by the actual payload. Thus, Chandrayaan 1 is significantly larger than SMART 1.

Compared to SMART 1, Chandrayaan 1 is less technologically demanding. It is a conventional space probe with a conventional “chemical” propulsion system, in which a fuel and an oxidizer are burned in the rocket motor and thus provide thrust. That is quite sufficient. After all, India wants to gain its first experience of an interplanetary mission with this “trip to the moon”.

The spectrum of scientific experiments is broad and even goes beyond the scientific objectives of SMART 1. In addition to the optical and spectroscopic experiments, the payload also includes a laser altimeter with which the topography of the moon's surface can be measured with high precision. The communication to the remote control takes place in the S-band, the scientific data is transmitted in the X-band. The energy requirement of 750 W is covered by solar cells.
India's lunar orbiter will explore Earth's satellite from a height of 100 kilometers for at least two years and send data back to Earth. According to the latest information, the project and mission costs amount to the equivalent of 80 million euros.

ESA and India decide on a lunar partnership

Both the mission concept and the mission objectives of SMART 1 and Chandrayaan 1 differ fundamentally from each other. At the same time, there are numerous similarities in the scientific objectives.
India invited the ESA member states to collaborate on their ambitious project. They signaled specific requests, especially in the area of ​​payloads. European scientists, on the other hand, have not escaped the fact that the orbit of the Indian lunar probe, which is significantly lower than that of SMART 1, is very lucrative (Chandrayaan 1: 100 km; SMART 1: 300 km). The resolution of their high-tech measuring instruments would benefit from the lower web height. You could significantly refine and verify your first measurement results through more precise re-measurements. In other words: both sides would have something to offer each other. That is the basis of a good partnership.

The ESA Council meeting in Paris on March 17th, 2005 unanimously decided on lunar cooperation with India. On June 27, the corresponding agreement for joint exploration of the moon was signed in Bangalore by the heads of both space agencies, Jean-Jacques Dordain (ESA) and Madhavan Nair (ISRO).
ESA will share its experiences with SMART 1 with ISRO, contribute three scientific instruments and also support the operational phase of the mission. In return, all data provided by the instruments are made available to the ESA member states immediately.
Against the background of the moon missions beginning in China, the USA and Japan in the coming years, the cooperation with India expands the research work of European scientists and consolidates their recognized position in the international scientific community.

European participation

The hardware that the ESA member states India will be supplying consists of three identical devices that are already used in the European high-tech SMART 1 probe. This includes:


  • the X-ray spectrometer CIXS-2 (ESA / Great Britain)
  • the particle analyzer SARA (ESA / Sweden)
  • the infrared spectrometer SIR-2 (ESA / Germany)

In addition, ESA will supply hardware components for the Indian high-energy X-ray spectrometer HEX. Heavy elements such as radon, uranium and thorium on the moon are to be detected with it.

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