ISRO’s Exploration of Lunar Traffic and Safety


Chandrayaan-3’s imminent approach to the moon, coupled with the resurgence of global interest in lunar exploration, has prompted the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to comprehensively evaluate the lunar space environment. This assessment comes in light of the anticipated surge in activities surrounding the moon, including the upcoming ARTEMIS missions. Beyond scientific exploration, the focus is shifting towards resource utilization for commercial purposes, necessitating a thorough understanding of the lunar vicinity to ensure safe orbital operations.

Navigating a Crowded Lunar Landscape

As of July 2023, ISRO’s analysis reveals the presence of six active lunar orbiters, shaping the current lunar traffic scenario. Notable among these are NASA’s ARTEMIS P1 and ARTEMIS P2, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Capstone, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2, and Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO). However, alongside these functional orbiters, defunct spacecraft like Japan’s Ouna (2009) and ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 (2008) occupy lunar orbits.

Upcoming Lunar Ventures

ISRO’s assessment underscores the impending challenges posed by an array of upcoming lunar missions. With 11 missions slated for the moon, including USA’s Lunar Trailblazer (2023), China’s Lunar Exploration Programme (2024-2027), and the joint India-Japan Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (post-2024), the lunar environment is set to become increasingly congested. These numerous missions demand careful coordination to prevent collisions and ensure the success of each endeavour.

Critical Manoeuvres and Precautions

Given the limited space and increasing conjunctions among lunar spacecraft, avoiding collisions becomes paramount. Chandrayaan-2, launched by ISRO in 2019, has already executed three vital collision avoidance manoeuvres to avert potentially hazardous close encounters with LRO and KPLO. Such manoeuvres exemplify the dedication to maintaining the safety and integrity of lunar missions.

Chandrayaan-3’s Trajectory and Lunar Residency

Chandrayaan-3, poised for a landing on August 23, will follow a distinctive trajectory. Its propulsion module is anticipated to establish a circular low lunar orbit (LLO) at an altitude of approximately 150 km. This LLO will serve as the spacecraft’s orbital base for an extended period, facilitating continuous scientific observations and research.

Conclusion: Navigating the Lunar Future

As Chandrayaan-3 embarks on its lunar journey and global lunar exploration gains momentum, ISRO’s meticulous assessment of the lunar space environment is pivotal. With many upcoming missions on the horizon, collaboration, collision avoidance strategies, and a deep understanding of lunar dynamics are indispensable for the successful coexistence and triumph of lunar missions.

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