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Chandrayaan 3 Update: LVM3 M4 Launch Vehicle Uncontrolled, ISRO Moon Mission’s Cryogenic Stage Enters Earth orbit, Can Fall In The North Pacific Ocean

Chandrayaan 3 Update : Chandrayaan 3 cryogenic upper stage makes controlled re-entry, aligning with international space debris guidelines.

LVM3 M4 Launch Vehicle Uncontrolled : Passivation process ensures safety, reducing the risk of accidental explosions during re-entry.

Chandrayaan-3 Update: ISRO invites youth for a space robotics challenge, seeking innovative ideas for future missions.

Bangalore,16 November (City Times): Chandrayaan 3 Update: India’s space endeavours faced a recent development as the cryogenic upper stage of the LVM3 M4 launch vehicle, integral to the Chandrayaan-3 mission, completed an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the cryogenic upper stage of the LVM3 M4 launch vehicle, which played a crucial role in deploying the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft into its designated orbit on July 14, 2023, has completed a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. This significant event occurred at approximately 14:42 IST on a Wednesday, marking 124 days since the initial launch.

LVM3 M4 Launch Vehicle Uncontrolled: Key Event Highlights:

  1. Unplanned Re-entry: The cryogenic upper stage re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 14:42 IST on Wednesday. The probable impact point was over the North Pacific Ocean, with the final ground track avoiding India.
  2. Compliance with Guidelines: The re-entry within 124 days adheres to the “25-year rule” set by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). This rule ensures defunct satellites and rocket stages re-enter within 25 years, reducing space debris.
  3. Passivation Process: Before re-entry, the upper stage underwent ‘passivation,’ a meticulous procedure removing residual propellants and energy sources. This step aligns with international guidelines, minimizing risks of accidental explosions.

ISRO Commitment and Achievement:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) underscores its commitment to long-term sustainability in outer space activities. By following rigorous international standards, ISRO has not only showcased technical proficiency but also demonstrated environmental responsibility.

LVM3 M4 Launch Vehicle Uncontrolled: Implications and Future Prospects:

  1. Limited Impact on Chandrayaan-3: The uncontrolled re-entry poses minimal impact on the Chandrayaan-3 mission, showcasing ISRO’s ability to navigate challenges effectively.
  2. Global Recognition: Adherence to international debris mitigation guidelines reaffirms India’s responsible participation in global space initiatives. ISRO’s dedication to compliance bolsters its standing as a reliable contributor.
  3. Inviting Innovation: Simultaneously, ISRO invites innovative ideas for robotic rovers, encouraging the youth to contribute to future interplanetary missions. This aligns with ISRO’s vision of fostering creative thinking among India’s youth.

Key information about the Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3)

NameLaunch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3)
Development AgencyIndian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
PurposeMedium-lift launch vehicle for communication satellites (geostationary orbit) and crewed missions
First Orbital Test Launch5 June 2017
Total Development Cost₹2,962.78 crore (₹45 billion or US$560 million in 2023)
Approval for 10 RocketsJune 2018: ₹4,338 crore (₹58 billion or US$730 million in 2023)
Key LaunchesCARE, Chandrayaan-2, Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaan, OneWeb satellites
C25 Cryogenic StageDiameter: 4m, Length: 13.5m, Propellant: LOX and LH2, Engine: CE-20, Payload Fairing: 5m diameter
Variants and UpgradesSC120-powered version, C32 stage with higher propellant load
Human RatingDesigned for Gaganyaan project with safety-critical subsystems
Testing and QualificationOngoing testing of engines and stages, including CE-20 engine for Gaganyaan
Notable MissionsX (Suborbital flight test), D1 (GSAT-19), M1 (Chandrayaan-2), M2 (36 OneWeb satellites), M4 (Chandrayaan-3)
This table provides a concise overview of the Launch Vehicle Mark-3, highlighting its purpose, development details, key launches, specifications of stages, variants, human rating, and notable missions.

The Role of the Cryogenic Upper Stage

This specific rocket body was an integral component of the LVM3 M4 launch vehicle, a vital element in ISRO’s ambitious lunar exploration program. The cryogenic upper stage played a pivotal role in propelling Chandrayaan-3 towards its lunar mission objectives. The successful deployment of the spacecraft was a notable achievement for India’s space exploration endeavors.

Compliance with International Guidelines

The controlled re-entry of the upper stage is in line with the “25-year rule” set forth by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). This rule ensures that defunct satellites and rocket stages in low-Earth orbit re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years post-mission, aiming to mitigate space debris.

The re-entry took place over the North Pacific Ocean, with the predicted impact point located in that region. Importantly, the final ground track did not pass over India, eliminating any potential risks associated with the re-entry process.

Passivation Process Ensures Safety

Prior to the re-entry, the cryogenic upper stage underwent a crucial process known as “passivation.” This procedure involved the removal of all residual propellants and potential energy sources within the spent stage. The primary objective of passivation is to significantly reduce the risk of accidental explosions during re-entry.

The passivation process aligns with stringent space debris mitigation guidelines prescribed by both the United Nations and IADC. By adhering to these guidelines, ISRO demonstrates its commitment to responsible participation in the global space community and contributes to the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

Impact on Chandrayaan 3 Mission and ISRO’s Response

The Chandrayaan-3 mission, which includes a lander and rover configuration, aimed to further India’s capabilities in safe lunar landing and roving. The success of this mission, coupled with the controlled disposal of the rocket body’s upper stage, signifies a dual achievement for ISRO. It not only highlights India’s growing expertise in space exploration but also underscores the organization’s dedication to environmental stewardship in space.

ISRO has assured that there will be no material financial impact on the organization due to this controlled re-entry. The space agency emphasized that the post-mission orbital lifetime of the cryogenic upper stage aligns with international regulations, and the passivation process ensures the safety of such re-entry maneuvers.

Future Prospects and Youth Engagement

In a separate initiative, ISRO has invited innovative ideas and designs for robotic rovers from the youth for future missions. The UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC)/ISRO aims to leverage the creative thinking among the youth of India for interplanetary missions. The space agency is conducting a space robotics challenge, encouraging the youth to contribute ideas and designs for wheeled or legged rovers.

Participating students have the opportunity to develop both hardware and software solutions for robotic rovers. ISRO sees this as a chance to incorporate innovative ideas from the youth into its future interplanetary robotics missions. This initiative aligns with ISRO’s commitment to nurturing talent and fostering creativity in the field of space exploration.

ISRO’s swift and calculated response

The controlled re-entry of the cryogenic upper stage of the LVM3 M4 launch vehicle represents a significant achievement for ISRO and the Chandrayaan-3 mission. By following international guidelines and ensuring the safety of the re-entry process, ISRO continues to position itself as a responsible and technically proficient participant in the global space community. As India looks toward future space exploration endeavours, including interplanetary missions, engaging the youth in innovative initiatives reinforces the nation’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of space exploration and technology.

While the uncontrolled re-entry may have raised concerns, ISRO’s swift and calculated response reflects its commitment to responsible space exploration. The successful execution of Chandrayaan-3, coupled with stringent adherence to international guidelines, positions ISRO as a key player in the global space arena. The invitation for innovative contributions from the youth further emphasizes India’s dedication to advancing space technology.

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