Bangalore, Jun 16: Chandrayaan-I, India"s maiden mission to the moon, has reached a major milestone as scientists have completed the integration of all its instruments into the spacecraft and are aiming to launch it by September 19.
Last week, space scientists at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) completed the integration of the 11 instruments, six indigenous and five under international cooperation, onto the spacecraft. The tests are expected to last another four weeks after which the spacecraft's ability to handle the extreme thermal and vacuum environment of lunar orbit will be assessed, followed by vibration and acoustic tests.
Mylswamy Annadurai, Project Director of Chandrayaan-I, said, "We are now carrying out detailed integrated tests to ensure all systems work as per the expectations and to record spacecraft level data for future reference."
The spacecraft would be shifted to the launchpad at least four weeks prior to the launch date to enable scientists and engineers to carry out necessary checks on the launch vehicle.
Chandrayaan-I will be launched atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), India's workhorse rocket with a streak of nine consecutive flawless missions.
The spacecraft would be loaded with six instruments including a high-resolution stereo camera capable of imaging objects about 16 feet in diameter.
It will also carry near-infrared and X-ray spectrometers and a laser altimeter to determine the altitude of the lunar craft for spatial coverage of various instruments.
These payloads will enable researchers to ascertain the composition and topography of the lunar surface.
The engineers have also built a 64-pound impactor that will be dropped from the orbiting spacecraft for a suicidal nosedive into the moon.
The probe will relay video imagery, altitude information and spectral data back to Earth through the Chandrayaan mothership, which will be in a lunar orbit 100 kilometres away.
However, the launch is likely to take place on September 19 provided all the tests are carried out without any hitch.