The IT and Aerospace hub of India is once again gearing up to be in 'mission control mode' but this time for the mother of all challenges, an interplanetary mission to the nearest planet to earth, Mars that is just 400 million kilometres away!
Making India's Mars Mission project a reality, many institutes, centres, companies and of course, a plethora of scientists and engineers have contributed and worked overtime so that it takes off at the right time and does not miss the opportunity that is available this year. The Red planet, Mars being very close to earth now and the launch window open till November 19, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had to work and keep the tight deadline especially building a spacecraft in just 15 months. One can imagine the challenges, a journey of 400 million kilometres, encountering high radiations from the sun, its solar pressure as well as influences from other planets not only needed a spacecraft that could operate without errors but also various electronic devices on board that could function.
Speaking to City Express, ISRO Chairman, Dr K Radhakrishnan refusing to name any key scientists involved in the Mars Mission said, "I don't want to name a few as hundreds of scientists and engineers from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Thiruvanantpuram have been involved in the mission since it was approved in December 2011 and the process was put on fast track to meet the D-date on November 5th. Even the deadline offered new challenges to take on an inter-planetary mission where the sphere of influence was nearly 9.5 lakh kilometres. If you look at the various ISRO centres in Bangalore, from the Indian Deep Space Network at Byalalu to ISTRAC at Peenya to ISRO Satellite Centre at Old Airport Road to the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Indira Nagar, they will all be playing a crucial role in the Mars mission," he added.
Any deep space probe, the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu near Bangalore is in the forefront and therefore, its facilities have been upgraded to take on a mission where the communication links with the planet will be one of the biggest challenges. In fact, 20 minutes is the lead time for a one-way communication between Byalalu and the satellite. Supporting a network of large antennas and communication facilities, the IDSN station improving the visibility duration, has the responsibility of receiving the spacecraft health data as well as the payload data.
Although the 18-m antenna at Byalalu was tailored for Chandrayaan-1 mission, the 32-m antenna can support other planetary missions including Mars. "To augment the mission, we have increased the power from 2 to 20 kilowatts. While Chandrayaan-1 was powered by a 2 kw charge, Mangalyaan will have 20 Kw power for the command operations, the ISRO Chairman explained and added that other up gradations have been done to improve the accuracy of the position determination of the spacecraft. Apart from this, the three ground stations of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA will also be tracking various phases of the flight and its visibility.
The propulsions systems for the spacecraft was provided completely by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Indira Nagar while the entire mission operations control of Mangalyaan will be taken over by ISTRAC once PSLV injects the spacecraft around the earth's orbit.
Stressing that it was completely a through and through Indian project with the involvement of the local industry, Dr Radhakrishnan said, "80 per cent of PSLV has been realized through private and public players as well as SMEs and without their participation, the project wouldn't have taken off. The spin offs from this mission will be manifold in terms of long term scientific value, improvement in efficiency, and also the capability of the country to take up such missions. It is not just national pride but motivating and igniting a generation of youngsters to take up science as an occupation is our mission," the ISRO chief signs off.