The Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS) is a compact X-ray spectrometer for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission. It exploits heritage from the D-CIXS instrument on ESA's SMART-1 mission. As a result of detailed developments to all aspects of the design, its performance as measured in the laboratory greatly surpasses that of D-CIXS. In comparison with SMART-1, Chandrayaan-1 is a science-oriented rather than a technology mission, leading to far more favourable conditions for science measurements. C1XS is designed to measure absolute and relative abundances of major rock-forming elements (principally Mg, Al, Si, Ca and Fe) in the lunar crust with spatial resolution ⩽25 FWHM km, and to achieve relative elemental abundances of better than 10%.