India and China have agreed to start formal negotiations for the construction of a lunar module that will provide a launch vehicle for the next generation of space missions, according to a joint statement released today.
The statement said India and Chinese space agencies had agreed to work on the project, which is expected to start in 2020 and be completed by 2030.
India, which had been in talks with Russia and the United States on the launch of a new space station, had earlier stated that it would “consider all possible measures” to protect the Moon.
It has not yet said whether the project will involve India, the only nation to have visited the Moon, or China, which has the Moon as its own.
The lunar module would be built at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota and it is to be operated by India as a “space station”.
The launch of the lunar module is not a priority for India, although it is keen to work with China, the statement said.
It also said that India will continue to seek a “comprehensive agreement” with the International Space Station and the International Launch Alliance (ILAs) as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Federation Space Agency to achieve a “common goal of space station-related activities”.
It said India is committed to further develop the capabilities of the space station to address the challenges posed by climate change, the environment, and security threats.
India’s Space Research Organization has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) for the lunar orbiter, according a statement from the organisation.
The MoU includes the provision of technology for a lunar rover, lunar lander and space station.
The agreement was signed during the 50th Lunar Science Conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, held in November last year.
The MoU also gives China access to the technology of the Indian spacecraft and spacecraft systems, including spacecraft assembly, spacecraft design and test, space navigation, communications, space architecture and systems engineering, among others.