Jason DavisAug 13, 2019

Chandrayaan-2 Headed for Lunar Orbit

India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is safely on its way to lunar orbit, the country's space agency announced today. At 02:21 IST (20:51 UTC), Chandrayaan-2 fired its main engine for 20 minutes near the perigee, or low point, of its elliptical orbit around the Earth. This should have raised the spacecraft's apogee, or orbital high point, to around 413,600 kilometers—more than the distance between Earth and the Moon. Chandrayaan-2's current trajectory will carry it close to the Moon on 20 August, at which point it will fire its engine again to slip into lunar orbit.

Chandrayaan-2, India's Moon Orbiter

India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft studies the composition of the Moon's surface and searches for signatures of water ice.

ISRO estimates Chandrayaan-2's initial lunar orbit will be 118 by 18,078 kilometers. The spacecraft will use 4 subsequent engine burns on 21 August, 28 August, 30 August, and 1 September to descend to a roughly circular orbit of about 100 kilometers. There, the Vikram lander, carrying the Pragyan rover, will separate from the orbiter on 2 September. The lander will perform 2 orbital maneuvers of its own before starting its final descent to touchdown on 7 September.