Upper stage of Chandrayaan-3 launcher returns to Earth

The re-entry event occurred at 14:42 IST on Wednesday and the probable impact point was predicted over the North Pacific Ocean.
Chandrayaan-3. (Photo | Express)
Chandrayaan-3. (Photo | Express)

BENGALURU:  India on Wednesday sealed its commitment to reducing space debris while aligning with guidelines of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). The cryogenic upper stage of LVM3 M4, which launched Chandrayaan-3 on July 14, made a pre-planned re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, removing itself from being in orbit as part of space debris around the Earth. 

The re-entry event occurred at 14:42 IST on Wednesday and the probable impact point was predicted over the North Pacific Ocean, Isro scientists said, adding that the final ground track did not pass over India.
This part of the rocket was an integral component of the LVM3 M4 launch vehicle which released the propulsion module that made its way to the Moon before releasing lander Vikram — carrying the rover Pragyaan inside it — which gave India its first lunar touchdown on August 23.

“This rocket body (NORAD id 57321) was part of the vehicle that successfully injected the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft (propulsion module) into the intended (Earth) orbit of 133 km x 35823 km with a 21.3o inclination on July 14, 2023,” said Isro in a statement. 

Isro said, “The re-entry of the rocket body took place within 124 days of its launch. The post-mission orbital lifetime of the LVM3 M4 Cryogenic upper stage is, thus, fully compliant with the “25-year rule” for LEO (Low Earth Orbit) objects as recommended by IADC.” 

‘Energy sources removed to minimise risks’

Under the guidelines, the defunct satellites and rocket stages in low-Earth orbit reenter the Earth’s atmosphere within a quarter-century post the mission. 

Explaining the process, scientists said post-Chandrayaan-3 injection, the upper stage, which made the re-entry on Wednesday, underwent ‘Passivation,’ in which all residual propellant and energy sources are removed to minimize risks of accidental explosions, as prescribed by the UN and IADC. 

“Passivation and Post-mission disposal of this rocket body in adherence to the internationally accepted guidelines once again reaffirms India’s commitment to preserving the long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” said the space agency.

What has sealed India’s commitment to laws and norms to reduce space debris is that Wednesday’s re-entry was the third it achieved after the Radar Imaging Satellite-2 (RISAT-2) mission which re-entered post-mission on October 30, 2022, and Meghatropiques-1 satellite (MT1) on March 7, 2023.

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