Brunei lends a hand to Indian Moon mission

|     Hakim Hayat     |

IT IS a day of significance for Brunei-India relations in the space exploration arena today, with the Sultanate giving its South Asian ally a helping hand in its second lunar mission.

The expedition, dubbed Chandrayaan-2, will see a lander being sent to a completely unexplored section of the Moon earlier this morning.

An Indian space tracking station located in Brunei will play a critical role in the success of the mission as it passes over the country’s airspace during its separation stage.

Chandrayaan-2 will build on the work of its predecessor lunar mission Chandrayaan-1, most famous for helping discover molecules of water on the Moon a decade ago. This latest mission will see the deployment of a lander and a rover, which is expected to shed light on the South Polar region of the Moon – an area that is generally rich in water ice and sunlight and where no one has dared venture before.

ISTRAC Brunei Deputy General Manager Asif Siddiqui said during a presentation when Brunei Government officials visited the tracking station, that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Telemetry Tracking Station (ISTRAC) in Kampong Tungku will be overseeing the separation of the Chandrayaan-2 lander from its rocket over the station here, approximately 16 minutes after the mission’s scheduled launch at 0251 hours Indian time or 0521 hours local time today.

Deputy General Manager of ISTRAC Brunei Asif Siddiqui during a briefing with officials
Permanent Secretary at the MTIC Haji Mohammad Nazri bin Haji Mohammad Yusof with Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar and other officials at the ISTRAC Brunei station. – PHOTOS: HAKIM HAYAT

The visit of the Brunei government officials to the tracking station was hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar.

Officials from the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) – including Permanent Secretary at the MTIC Haji Mohammad Nazri bin Haji Mohammad Yusof and Deputy Permanent Secretary (Infocommunications, Cybersecurity, Strategy and Corporate) at the MTIC Haji Hairul Mohd Daud bin Haji Abdul Karim – and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) were present to learn more about the ground-breaking mission and the role of the tracking station in Brunei.

Siddiqui also shared during the presentation new developments for the ISTRAC in Brunei, with the station having recently identified a new site near Berakas Beach to build a new and suitable permanent site for the tracking station, as the ISRO anticipates large number of missions to come in the near future and to cater to their requirements.

“This current site we are at in Tungku has been here since 1998 and is ageing, and due to several developments around here we need extra terminals and one more antenna like this,” he explained. “This current location is not feasible because our location around several buildings causes blockages of the signals coming from the rocket. We can lose a critical amount of data because of this.”

He noted that the Brunei Government has been kind enough to provide them a few options for areas to relocate to and they have recently sent a proposal for the new location, which he added is “more suitable with no structures likely to come up in the near future”. “We hope to get the permission soon because our Brunei tracking station remains crucial for us because the trajectory of our rocket passes over here,” said Siddiqui.

Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota onboard GSLV Mk-III. After launch, Chandrayaan-2 will be projected in an oval orbit, leaving the rocket over and over again for the next 17 days and increasing the scope of its orbit. After increasing the radius, the space mission will move towards the Moon. From there, Chandrayaan-2 will take five days to reach the Moon’s radius.

After reaching the Moon’s radius, Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter will begin rotating around the Moon at a distance of 100km from its surface. The lander rover will then make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface.

The lander rover is expected to make its landing on the Moon’s surface on September 6.