India readies historic moon mission as it seeks to cement position as a space power | India | Space

India’s space agency is readying to launch a rocket that will attempt to land a rover on the moon and mark the country’s arrival as a power in space exploration.

Only the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have made successful lunar landings. An attempt by a Japanese start-up earlier this year ended with the lander crashing.

Built on a budget of just under $75m, the Chandrayaan-3 is set to blast off from India’s main spaceport in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh at 2.35pm local time.

If everything goes to plan, the 43.5-metre LVM3 launch rocket will blast the spacecraft into an elliptical Earth orbit before it loops towards the moon for a scheduled landing around 23 August.

The launch by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the country’s first major mission since the government of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, announced policies to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.

Chandrayaan, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, includes a 2-metre tall lander designed to deploy a rover near the lunar south pole, where it is expected to remain functional for two weeks running a series of experiments.

But analysts say the launch also has a secondary mission: signalling India is open for business in the accelerating private-sector space race.

“A successful mission will add to India’s global stature and bring indirect benefits on the commercial aspect of the industry,” said Ajey Lele, a consultant at New Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2020 successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander and rover were destroyed in a crash near where the Chandrayan-3 will attempt a touchdown.

Since 2020, when India opened to private launches, the number of space startups has more than doubled. Late last year, Skyroot Aerospace, whose investors include Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, launched India’s first privately built…

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