India’s second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, will be carried out without Russian partnership, announced a government minister on August 14. The decision has been taken following a technological disagreement between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Russia Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

Chandrayaan-2, conceived in 2008, would have used a Russian-built lander along with an Indian rover and orbiter, all to be launched on Indian PSLV rocket. However, the Phobos-Grunt failure in 2011 led Roscosmos to consider some hardware changes to improve the reliability. According to Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayansamy, the proposed changes would lead to a major programmatic realignment, consisting of an increase in the lander’s mass, which would consequently require a decrease in the mass of the Indian-built rover to continue using the PSLV launcher.

While investigating the Phobos-Grunt failure, Roscosmos had to admit the necessity of redesigning other similar hardware to improve their reliability. Therefore, the Russian agency proposed to change the lander’s on-board control computer, increasing its weight. As a result, it would have been technically impossible to use the Indian launch vehicle for this mission.

“Rosсosmos did not leave the Chandrayaan-II project unilaterally. In a meeting with ISRP officials in April, the Russian side offered to carry out the launch of the Russian lander with an Indian mini-rover in 2015, using the Russian launch vehicle. Alternatively, Roscosmos also offered to carry out the launch of the Indian heavyweight rover as a part of the Russian Lander, using the Russian launch vehicle. Unfortunately, the position of the Indian side was not conveyed to us,” said the Russian official to Deccan Herald.

However, Narayansamy objected that Roscosmos indicated that the 2015 opportunity involved not only mass limitation for the rover but also higher risk. Therefore, an ISRO panel review recommended India to autonomously carry out the development of the lander module.

“Currently the spacecraft is being reconfigured for the proposed Indian Rover and Lander modules,” said Narayansamy.

Chandrayaan-2, originally scheduled to launch in 2013, is now expected in 2016.

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Matteo Emanuelli

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Matteo Emanuelli is Feature Editor of Space Safety Magazine. He is a young professional from Italy but living in France where he works as engineer and project manager at Université de Picardie. He is member of the Space Generation Advisory Council where he is Co-Lead of the Space Safety Sustainability Project Group. Matteo also worked on a space debris removal mission at the Omsk State Technical University in Russia while he was enrolled at Politecnico di Milano.