Chandrayaan-2 launch postponed again; Israel may now beat India to the moon

This delay may give Israel an opportunity to edge past India with its recently announced moon mission.

There will be another delay in the launch of India's second mission to the moon — Chandrayaan-2 — and it may turn out to be no sooner than January next year, according to an ISRO official.

The postponement of the ambitious mission from October comes in the wake of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facing two setbacks in less than a year. This delay of the Chandrayaan-2 launch may give Israel an opportunity to edge past India with its recently announced lunar mission.

The launch of the Indian mission was initially planned for March or April.

Earlier this year, the ISRO had successfully launched GSAT-6A, a military communication satellite, but soon lost communication with it. Following this, ISRO also recalled the launch of GSAT-11 from from Kourou, French Guiana, for additional technical checks.

Last September, the PSLV- C39 mission, carrying the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite, failed after the heat shield refused to open and release the satellite.

 Chandrayaan-2 launch postponed again; Israel may now beat India to the moon

Representational image. PTI

ISRO is treading a cautious path after these two setbacks as Chandrayaan-2 is one of the most crucial launches for the space agency, particularly after Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission). It is also ISRO's first mission to land on any celestial body. "We don't want to take any risk," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The official added that there are certain windows during which the mission could be launched. The next launch window is likely to be in January.

Repeated attempts to solicit a response from ISRO chairman K Sivan were not successful. In April, Sivan informed the government about the postponement of the launch to October-November. A national-level committee to review Chandrayaan-2 recommended some additional tests before the mission could take off.

Chandrayaan-2 will be ISRO's first time attempt to land a rover on the Moon. The rover of India's second lunar mission, costing nearly Rs 800 crore, will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole.

Last month, Israel announced plans to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, with hopes of burnishing Israel's reputation as a small nation with otherworldly high-tech ambitions.

The unmanned spacecraft, shaped like a pod and weighing some 585 kilogrammes at launch, will land on the moon on 13 February, 2019 if all goes according to schedule.

Representational image. Image courtesy: NASA

Representational image. Image courtesy: NASA

It will be launched via a rocket from American entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX firm and its mission will include research on the moon's magnetic field. Its first task however will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon, organisers said.

Until now, only the United States, Russia and China have been able to place their spacecraft on the lunar surface. Without official announcements from ISRO, it is now yet to be seen if India will still manage to be the fourth nation on the moon, ahead of Israel.

With inputs from agencies

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