The second attempt to launch the Chandrayaan 2 moon mission is likely to be made this month, sources in the Indian Space Research Organisation said today. The launch of India's most ambitious space mission yet was aborted less than an hour before its scheduled lift-off at 2:51 am due to a technical snag in the rocket system, the ISRO said.
The rocket and the satellite are safe, and the highly flammable liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen have been removed from the rocket, sources said.
The full details of what went wrong will be available when scientists can access the rocket and after a full analysis is carried out, they said.
The powerful GSLV Mark III rocket was set to go up from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh with a rover that would land on the moon in about two months' time.
ISRO had announced one hour before launch that the filling of liquid hydrogen fuel had been completed.
"A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today. Revised launch date will be announced later," ISRO tweeted around 3 am.
Ahead of the launch, ISRO chief K Sivan had told NDTV that the space agency has another lift-off opportunity tomorrow if it were called off today. But launch windows have to meet several technical criteria and so it could even take weeks or months for a new date.
"It was the right decision to call off Chandrayaan 2 launch. We could not have taken any chance in such a big mission," former Defence Research and Development Organisation's director of public interface, Ravi Gupta, told news agency ANI.
The 3.8-tonne Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover was to lift off on the 640-tonne GSLV Mark III (nicknamed "Baahubali"), India's most powerful rocket that's as high as a 15-storey building.
Once it is launched, Chandrayaan 2 has to separate from the rocket and orbit the Earth several times before being slung towards the moon - a 3.84 lakh-km journey. The orbiter is to circle the moon for about a year.
When the spacecraft reaches the moon 54 days after lift-off, it will engage Vikram, a 1.4-tonne lander, which will in turn set the 27-kilogramme rover Pragyan down on a high plain between two craters on the lunar south pole. After touchdown on the moon, the rover is expected to conduct experiments for one Moon day, equal to 14 Earth days, primarily to check if the lunar south pole has primordial water reserves.
An analysis published by Sputnik International claimed that the approximate $124-million price tag of the Chandrayaan 2 is less than half the budget of Hollywood blockbuster Avengers Endgame ($356 million). The Indian space agency has a budget that's 20 times less than NASA, its US counterpart.