SPACE.com Columnist Leonard David

At the Moon, India's Chandrayaan-2 Spacecraft Poised to Release Lunar Lander

An artist's illustration of India's Chandrayaan-2 orbiter (bottom) and the Vikram lander, which carries the Pragyan rover, in orbit around the moon.
An artist's illustration of India's Chandrayaan-2 orbiter (bottom) and the Vikram lander, which carries the Pragyan rover, in orbit around the moon. (Image credit: Indian Space Research Organisation)

India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft at the moon successfully completed its fifth and final lunar orbit maneuver today (Sept. 1), setting the stage for the release of the country's first lunar lander. 

The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft performed a 52-second maneuver at 8:51 a.m. EDT (1821 IST/1251 GMT), refining its orbit to a path that ranges from 74 to 79 miles (119-127 kilometers) above the lunar surface. 

"All spacecraft parameters are normal," the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in an update (opens in new tab).

Related: India's Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon in Photos

Vikram lander separation

The next operation is the separation of the Vikram lander from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter. That event is scheduled for Monday (Sept. 2) sometime between 3:15-4:15 a.m.  EDT (0715-0815 GMT). It will be 12:45 p.m. India Standard Time when the separation occurs.

Following separation, Vikram will perform two deorbit maneuvers to prepare for its landing in the south polar region of the moon.

According to the ISRO, the tentative plan for future operations after today's maneuver Chandrayaan-2 is as follows.

  • Vikram Separation: Monday, Sept. 2
    3:15-4:45 a.m. EDT (0715-0815 GMT), 12:45 – 13:45 IST
  • Deorbit 1: Monday, Sept. 2
    11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 Sept. 3 GMT), 09:00 – 10:00 Tuesday, Sept. 3 IST.
    Orbit target: 109 x 120 kilometers
  • Deorbit 2: Tuesday, Sept. 3
    5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT), 03:00 – 04:00, Wednesday, Sept. 4 IST.
    Orbit target: 36 x 110 kilometers
  • Powered Descent: Friday, Sept. 6 (Sept. 7 IST)
  • Vikram Touchdown: Friday, Sept. 6
    4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT),  01:30 – 02:30 Saturday, Sept. 6 IST

The Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 is named after Vikram A. Sarabhai, often called the father of the Indian space program. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days.

India's Chandrayaan-2 mission launched to the moon on July 22 and is the second lunar mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation after its successful Chandrayaan-2 flight. It consists of an orbiter, the Vikram lander and the small Pragyan lunar rover, which is packed aboard Vikram and will be deployed once the lander touches down on the moon. 

Leonard David is author of the recently released book, "Moon Rush: The New Space Race (opens in new tab)" published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.