On Friday afternoon, the spotlight will be on the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, from where India’s third moon mission will take to the skies. But some of the action before the lift-off will take place at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba.
The virtual launch control centre (VLCC) at the VSSC will have an important role to play in safely seeing off the powerful LVM3 launch vehicle carrying the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft. The facility allows the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to remotely carry out system checkouts on the launch vehicle prior to a mission.
For the July 14 launch, scheduled for 2.35 p.m., all system check-outs up to 14 minutes and 30 seconds before lift-off from Sriharikota will be remotely carried out from the VLCC, a VSSC official said.
‘’The VLCC will be fully operational on Friday. System check-outs, including those of the electronics, actuators and commands, will be carried out from the VLCC to make sure that they are operating properly. The launch command will be given from Sriharikota,’‘ the official said. ‘‘At 14 minutes 30 seconds, the launch vehicle will be in auto launch sequence under the onboard computer,” the official added.
The VSSC is ISRO’s lead unit for launch vehicles, and is responsible for the design and development of the LVM3 (formerly GSLV Mk-III) launch vehicle.
During pandemic time
A replica of the launch control centre at Sriharikota, the VLCC at Thumba was operationalised during the COVID-19 pandemic when large-scale movement of personnel for space missions was out of the question. Since then, the facility, manned by a small group of scientists, has been activated for various missions including the LVM3 M2/OneWeb India-1 mission in October 2022.
Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-up mission to the 2019 Chandrayaan-2 mission. The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is composed of the Propulsion Module and the Lander and Rover aboard it. After the July 14 launch, ISRO expects to soft-land the lander on the lunar surface in the last week of August. The lander has four payloads, the rover two, and the propulsion module, one.