Indian engineers suspended the launch of the Chandrayaan 2 lunar landing mission on Sunday after observing a "technical hurdle" during the final hour of the countdown, the Indian space agency said.
The robotic probe counting down for takeoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the top of the GSLV Mk.3 rocket in India at 2121 GMT (5:21 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, or from 2:51 a.m. Monday local time in India.
"A technical problem was observed in (a) the launch vehicle system one hour before launch," wrote the Indian Space Research Organization. "As an abundant precautionary measure, (the) launch of Chandrayaan 2 has been canceled for today, the revised release date will be announced later."
ISRO did not disclose any additional information on the reason for the postponement of the launch. IANS, an Indian news agency, reported that the GSLV Mk.3 rocket would have to be drained from its liquid propellants and returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the southeast coast of India for further investigation.
According to IANS, that process will take 10 days before the managers can solve the problem and prepare for another launch attempt.
In May, ISRO officials said that the launch window for the Chandrayaan 2 mission this month was opened on July 9 and runs through Tuesday July 16 (Monday, July 15 in the United States). Chandrayaan 2 has lost a series of previous launch windows as engineers completed construction and tests on the mission, which include elements of an orbiter, landing and rover that will separate after reaching the Moon.
Once it takes off, the GSLV Mk.3 rocket will inject the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft of 8,547 pounds (3,877 kilograms) into an elliptical orbit that extends more than 24,000 miles (39,000 kilometers) around the Earth. Chandrayaan 2 will use its own propulsion system to elevate its orbit and free itself from Earth's gravitational grip, with its arrival in orbit around the Moon approximately three weeks after takeoff.
Once in the lunar orbit, Chandrayaan 2 will maneuver closer to the moon before separating the orbiter's landing craft.
If the mission had been launched on Sunday, the landing on the moon was scheduled for September 6. A new landing date will depend on when the mission leaves Earth.
The $ 142 million Chandrayaan 2 landing module is aiming for a landing at an unexplored site located on the near side of the moon at 70.9 degrees south latitude, closer to the moon's south pole than any previous probe . The lander is named Vikram by Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program, and will deploy the Pragyan vehicle, named for the Sanskrit word meaning "wisdom."
The stationary landing module and rover are designed to last 14 days, equivalent to half a lunar day, until the sun sets at the landing site, depriving vehicles of electric power as temperatures fall to almost 300 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 183 degrees Celsius). The rover and the lander carry a set of scientific instruments, including cameras and spectrometers to measure the composition of the rocks at the landing site.
If the landing is successful, India will become the fourth nation to achieve a controlled soft landing on the Moon, after the landings of the Soviet Union, the United States and China.
The Chandrayaan 2 orbiter will conduct its own one-year scientific mission, taking high-resolution mapping images and exploring shadow craters at the lunar poles with a dual frequency radar to help better locate ice deposits.
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