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India Shares Update On Chandrayaan-4 Lunar Sample Return Mission

India is finalizing plans for its Chandrayaan-4 moon sample return mission, a venture that will mark a significant collaboration between the ISRO and the country's private sector.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Tue May 14 2024Written by Zac Aubert

India is finalizing plans for its Chandrayaan-4 moon sample return mission, a venture that will mark a significant collaboration between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the country's burgeoning private sector.

The proposed multi-launch, multi-spacecraft mission is set to target the landing site of Chandrayaan-3, known as Shiv Shakti Point.

Its primary objective is to gather a yet-to-be-disclosed quantity of lunar samples for subsequent delivery to Earth.

"We are working on that and hopefully in the next four or five years or so. This also opens up many new technologies. The private sector also is going to be involved in a big way." - Nilesh Desai, Director of SAC

India's efforts to foster a private space sector have been ongoing, bolstered by the introduction of a new national space policy in 2023. Leveraging this policy framework for a flagship mission like Chandrayaan-4 signifies another significant stride. Moreover, India anticipates a surge in civil and private launches in the foreseeable future.

The complexity of the Chandrayaan-4 mission is underscored by its intricate design.

It entails the utilization of two separate launch vehicles to deploy four spacecraft: a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will launch a transfer module (TM) and reentry module (RM) into a sub-geostationary transfer orbit, gradually positioning them towards lunar distance. A Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III).will launch a lander module (LM) and ascender module (AM), with a propulsion module.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, the RM and TM will maintain their positions while the LM and AM descend to the lunar surface.

Operational activities on the moon will be conducted within a single lunar day. A pivotal aspect involves a robotic arm transferring collected samples to the AM, which will subsequently launch into lunar orbit to rendezvous with the TM. Following this, a robotic arm aboard the TM will facilitate the transfer of samples to the RM before initiating the journey back to Earth.

Near Earth, the RM will separate from the TM for reentry and landing.

Despite the absence of confirmed funding, ISRO has outlined plans for Chandrayaan-4, projecting a launch no earlier than 2028.

Notably, the mission's inclusion of lunar orbit rendezvous and docking techniques, rather than a direct return of samples to Earth, bears relevance for prospective crewed lunar missions. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target of 2040 for placing astronauts on the moon, further underlining the strategic importance of endeavors like Chandrayaan-4; with the Chairman of ISRO, previously presented Chandrayaan-4 as part of a roadmap envisioning Indian astronauts on the moon and the establishment of a lunar base by 2047.

India is also collaborating with Japan on the Lunar Polar Exploration (LuPEx) mission, which entails an ISRO lander and a rover developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This joint endeavor aims to explore permanently shadowed craters, with a proposed launch on a Japanese H3 rocket.

India's is also working plans for a Mars Lander Mission (MLM), building upon the success of the 2013 Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Noting the challenges ahead, critical technologies required for the mission, including a supersonic parachute, aerodynamic design for landing, and a sky-crane for lander deployment are currently or soon will begin development.

India's bold plans for future space exploration, from lunar missions to Mars exploration, underscore its ascent as a prominent player in the global space arena.