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Chandrayaan-3 Moon Landing: NASA and ESA Support Explained

The Chandrayaan-3 mission, launched on July 14, has received crucial support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Here’s how they are assisting the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) during this lunar mission:

ESA’s Ground Stations Support

Chandrayaan-3 Moon Landing
An illustration showing the soft-landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the surface of the Moon. The spacecraft is set to land on August 23, 2023 around 6.04 p.m. IST. Photo: Twitter/@isro via PTI | (Source: The Hindu)

The ESA has been actively aiding Chandrayaan-3 by using two ground stations in its ESTRACK network. These stations track the satellite, receive telemetry data from it, and relay this information to ISRO’s Mission Operations Centre in Bengaluru. The ESA selected its 15-metre antenna in Kourou, French Guiana, and the 32-metre antenna at Goonhilly Earth Station, U.K., based on their technical capabilities and periods of geometric visibility to the satellite.

Crucial Lunar Descent Phase

With Chandrayaan-3’s Lander attempting to land on the lunar surface on August 23, the support from these ground stations becomes even more vital. ESA’s 35-metre deep space antenna in New Norcia, Australia, a third ground station in the ESTRACK network, is now tasked with tracking and communicating with the Lander Module during the Lunar Descent phase.

Back-Up Support

The New Norcia antenna will serve as a back-up for ISRO’s own ground station during the descent. It will receive critical data about the Lander Module’s health, location, and trajectory simultaneously with the ISRO station. This telemetry data will confirm the success of the landing. Such back-up support is standard during crucial moments in space missions.

NASA’s Deep Space Network

NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) plays a significant role during the powered descent phase of Chandrayaan-3. DSN provides telemetry and tracking coverage from Deep Space Station (DSS)-36 and DSS-34 at Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, followed by DSS-65 at Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex.

DSN receives telemetry data from the spacecraft, including health, status, and instrument measurements, which are transmitted to ISRO in near-real-time. Additionally, DSN monitors the radio signal for the Doppler effect, a primary tool for spacecraft navigation during landing phases.

Primary Support from DSN Complex in California

Sami Asmar from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Interplanetary Network Directorate emphasized that primary support for the mission comes from the DSN complex in California. This location is strategically positioned on the other side of the Earth from India, enabling it to have a direct line of sight to the Moon when the Indian station cannot.

In summary, NASA and ESA are providing essential support to Chandrayaan-3, ensuring that crucial data is received and relayed effectively during the lunar descent phase and other mission operations. Their collaboration showcases the international cooperation that often takes place during complex space missions.

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