Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon

India’s first mission to the moon

  • Due for launch 2008
  • An Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) mission

Chandrayaan-1 is India’s first unmanned mission to the Moon. It will spend two years performing high resolution mapping of the lunar surface in visible light, near infrared, low energy and high energy X-rays.

The spacecraft will also assess the Moon’s mineral resources and the distribution of elements such as silicon, iron and titanium.

Chandrayaan-1 is a 1.5 m cube and its scientific package contains two NASA, three European and seven Indian instruments. This includes a 30 kg Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which will be released from orbit to penetrate the lunar surface.

Its X-ray spectrometer (C1XS) is a further technical development on the D-CIXS instrument on-board the European Space Agency’s SMART-1.

NASA is providing the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR), which will be able to detect water ice up to a depth of several metres.

Mission facts

  • Chandrayaan-1 will be launched from a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in India.

  • The spacecraft weighs 523 kg and has similar design to the Kalpansat meteorological satellite.

  • There are 11 science payloads on board.

  • Chandrayaan is Hindi for ‘moon craft’.


A solar array will provide power for the spacecraft and generates 750 Watts.

The initial orbit will be 1,000 km, reducing to an eventual circular polar orbit of 100 km.

The Chandrayaan-1 Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer which will be used to determine the composition of the Moon’s surface. Its main scientific objective is to map the amount of major rock-forming elements - such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, titanium, calcium and iron - in the lunar crust.

The Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) has a 5 m resolution.

UK involvement

The STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory designed and built the Chandrayaan-1 Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation and the University of Helsinki.

The science team is chaired by Dr Ian Crawford from Birkbeck College, London, and the Principal Investigator is Prof Manuel Grande of the University of Wales, Aberystwth.

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