India defers lunar mission launch

Chandrayaan-1 in orbit around the Moon. Credits: ISRO

India's first exploratory mission to moon Chandrayaan-1, scheduled for launch on April 9, has been deferred, a top space agency official said here on Tuesday.

"As a number of pre-launch tests have to be conducted, it is difficult to meet the April 9 deadline," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G Madhavan Nair told IANS over phone.

"The mission payload has 12 instruments. We will decide on the next launch date by this month-end after a review meeting," he said.

Opting for a flexible approach towards the launch date, Nair said the space agency had decided to prepare the lunar mission strategy as soon as results of the all tests were available.

"If not in April, we will have the moon mission a little later, but certainly during the second quarter (April-June) of this year," Nair affirmed.

Dispelling any doubt over Chandrayaan-1, Nair said other preparations for the launch of the moon mission were going on in full swing. The spacecraft was being fitted with the payloads, the polar launch satellite vehicle (PSLV) was being readied at Sriharikota and the ground station (deep space network) was being readied at Byalalu, about 45 km from Bangalore.

"The moon mission is on. We are going ahead with the project. We have to decide on a suitable date after taking into consideration the various tests and other parameters," Nair added.

The Rs 4 billion ($100 million) mission is meant to explore the lunar surface from an altitude of 100-km orbiting around it for over two years, mapping the topography and the mineralogical content of earth's only natural satellite.