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India Delays Chandrayaan-2 Moon Lander Launch Over 'Technical Snag'

India has postponed the launch of Chandrayaan-2 — its biggest moon mission yet — due to a technical glitch that arose less than an hour before liftoff, the country's space agency said today.

The Indian Space Research Organisation called off the launch of Chandrayaan-2, a mission to send an orbiter, lander and rover to explore the moon's south pole, about 56 minutes before liftoff. The mission was scheduled to launch from ISRO's Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota today (July 14) from at 5:21 p.m. EDT (2121 GMT). It was early Monday local time when officials scrubbed the launch try. 

"A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at 1 hour before the launch. As a measure of abundant precaution, Chandrayaan-2 launch has been called off for today," ISRO officials wrote in a Twitter status update. "[A] revised launch date will be announced later."

Related: The Science of India's Audacious Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission

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An India Space Research Organisation GSLV III Mark 1 rocket carrying the Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter, lander and rover stands poised for a launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III M1 rocket carrying the Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter, lander and rover stands atop its launchpad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. ISRO officials postponed the launch on July 15, 2019 local time (July 14 EDT).
(Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)
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The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft (bottom) and its Vikram lander (top) are prepared to be encapsulated by a payload fairing before being loaded on their Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III-M1 rocket for a July 2019 launch.

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft (bottom) and its Vikram lander (top) are prepared to be encapsulated by a payload fairing before being loaded on their Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III-M1 rocket for a July 2019 launch.
(Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)
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This Indian Space Research Organisation diagram shows the flight profile of the Chandrayaan-2 spaceraft as they fly to the moon between July and September 2019.

This Indian Space Research Organisation diagram shows the flight profile of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft as they fly to the moon between July and September 2019.
(Image credit: Indian Space Research Organisation)


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The target landing site for India's Chandrayaan-2 mission to explore the lunar south pole.

The target landing site for India's Chandrayaan-2 mission to explore the lunar south pole.
(Image credit: Indian Space Research Organisation)
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India's Vikram moon lander (left) is moved into launch position on the Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter ahead of a planned July 2019 launch. The mission will send an orbiter, lander and rover to the moon.

India's Vikram moon lander (left) is moved into launch position on the Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter ahead of a planned July 2019 launch. The mission will send an orbiter, lander and rover to the moon.
(Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)

ISRO officials did not clarify if the technical glitch was with the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft or their rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III-M1, which is India's most powerful booster.

The $142 million Chandrayaan-2 is India's second lunar mission after the country's success with Chandrayaan-1, an orbiter launched 2008 that helped discovery the presence of water molecules on the moon. The new mission will also use an orbiter to study the moon from above, but will also drop a lander and rover to touch down at the south pole of the moon — something no spacefaring nation has ever done before.

If successful, India would become the fourth country (after the United States, Russia and China) to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the moon, and the first to reach the lunar south pole. The moon's south pole is a tantalizing target for scientists as the region's permanently shadowed craters can host water ice, a vital resource for future astronauts.

Editor's note: This story as been updated to include a new comment from the ISRO.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.  

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