Radhakrishna Rao / Bangalore

US-Indian space co-operation took a step forward with the 9 May signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Bangalore to include two NASA payloads on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe, scheduled for launch in early 2008.

NASA will supply the Mini Synthetic-Aperture Radar (MSAR) and Moon Mineralogy Mapper. Built by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the MSAR will map the shadowed, colder regions for ice deposits. The other instrument, built jointly by Brown University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will map the surface mineral composition.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin says he believes the USA and India “will be partners on many more technically challenging and scientifically rewarding projects”. ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair says the Moon probe is the beginning of more ambitious Indian planetary missions.

ISRO received 16 proposals for international payloads on Chandrayaan-1 and selected six, with three to be supplied by the European Space Agency and one by the Bulgarian Space Laboratory in addition to the two from the USA. Griffin says data from the US instruments will contribute to NASA’s lunar exploration plans. V N Goswami, director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory, says the two-year, $87 million mission “will for the first time explore the topography of the Moon”.

The preliminary design review for the 500kg (1,100lb) spacecraft has been completed and the payloads are being fabricated.

Source: Flight International