Hyderabad: Assembly work on Chandrayaan-I, India's first unmanned mission to the moon, scheduled for launch in 2008, has begun.
According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sources, the organisation has begun the integration process for the spacecraft structure, and from this month has also begun putting in place the antennae required for tracking data.
ISRO sources also confirmed that the spacecraft structure has arrived at the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited allowing the integration work to start.
Meanwhile, ISRO chief Madhavan G Nair has said that Chandrayaan-1 will be ready for launch in 2008. He said that the ground station for the mission was already coming up near Bangalore. Nair was talking to reporters in Hyderabad where he had gone to inaugurate a multi-functional laboratory at the BR Ambedkar Open University and also to address a seminar.
ISRO's deep-space tracking network system, being put into place for the moon mission, is coming up at Byalalu village, 40 km from Bangalore. The first 18-metre antenna has already been erected, ISRO sources said. Currently, a 32-metre antenna, built by the Electronic Corporation of India and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, is being erected at the site.
Sources also confirmed that instruments from various collaborators, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, have also started arriving.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee officially announced the moon mission on August 15, 2003. It is slated for launch in the period March-April 2008.
Given the current importance being attached to a moon-based programme by countries around the world, ISRO has decide to push back its other programmes, which were scheduled for launch much earlier, in order to accommodate the Chandrayaan. Programmes affected by this rescheduling would be the country's first science satellite Astrosat, which has now been rescheduled for launch in 2009-10.
ISRO's mission profile states that Chardrayaan-1 would be devoted to high-resolution remote sensing of the lunar surface features in visible, near infrared, X-ray and low energy gamma ray regions. The mission is proposed to be a lunar polar orbiter at an altitude of about 100 km and is expected to have an operational life of about two years.