ISRO Brings Chandrayaan-3 Propulsion Module Back to Earth Orbit
BENGALURU: Demonstrating India’s capability to not only send objects to the Moon but also retrieve them, ISRO has successfully brought back the Chandrayaan-3 Propulsion Module (PM) to Earth’s orbit. This achievement follows the lunar landing by the Vikram lander, showcasing the ability to reignite engines on the Moon and control equipment, operations initially unplanned by ISRO.
Launched on July 14, 2023, the Chandrayaan-3 mission aimed for a soft landing near the lunar south polar region and conducted experiments using the Vikram Lander and Pragyaan rover. With the Vikram Lander’s historic touchdown on the Moon on August 23 and the mission’s success, attention turned to the surplus fuel of the PM.
ISRO, employing innovative mission strategies, extended the PM’s operational life, utilizing its remaining fuel for future lunar missions. After careful planning and maneuvers, the PM’s trajectory was adjusted from lunar orbit to Earth orbit, avoiding potential collisions with the Moon or Earth’s GEO belt.
“The return maneuvers, initiated in October 2023, involved raising the apolune altitude and performing a Trans-Earth Injection (TEI) maneuver. The PM completed four Moon flybys before departing the Moon’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) on November 10,” ISRO stated.
Currently orbiting Earth, with its first perigee crossed on November 22, there are no threats to operational satellites based on current orbit predictions.
The SHAPE payload onboard the PM, designed for Earth observation, continues to operate as planned. ISRO’s flight dynamics team developed a sophisticated analysis tool, showcasing ISRO’s commitment to advancing space exploration capabilities.
“Key outcomes from the return maneuvers include trajectory planning for Moon-to-Earth transitions, software module development for maneuver planning, execution of gravity-assisted flybys, and the avoidance of uncontrolled crashing to meet debris creation standards,” said ISRO.
The successful repositioning of the PM not only extends its mission life but also contributes valuable insights and capabilities for future lunar missions.