Tech demonstrator to put India in elite mars club
The Mars Orbiter Mission is meant to be ISRO’s show of strength to prove to the world that it is capable of carrying out complex space missions. If successful, the mission will put India in an elite club of nations to have carried out Mars Missions.
It is set to be ISRO’s most staggering mission to date and will test the space agency’s expertise in space technology. And we will have to wait about 10 months to find out.
The Mars Orbiter Mission weighed 1,340 kg at lift-off, and carried 852 kg of fuel. The propellant is to be used to fire thrusters to increase the craft’s orbit around the Earth, a massive push to escape Earth’s gravity and another round of thrusts to enter and stabilise its orbit around Mars.
The Mars Orbiter carries five scientific instruments, which would carry out a number of tests and studies not only to expand understanding of the red planet, but also to gather information which could form the context for future missions.
ISRO’s expertise of space technology will come under the scanner, with the space agency attempting to operationalise a number of critical technologies that it has never tried before. The Mars Orbiter has been developed with a mix of the understanding gained from the IRS, INSAT and Chandrayaan-1 satellites. It has, however, demanded improvisations in communications, power and propulsion systems which have to reactivated after 10 months.
The most critical improvisation has been to meet the requirement for on-board autonomy, as real-time communication would not be possible in view of the vast distance. This would mean the craft would have to make decisions to preserve itself and continue its journey to Mars even as it would wait for commands from the ISRO ground stations.
It is not only the Mars Orbiter which has stretched the limits of ISRO’s achievement. The PSLV has been a most reliable launch vehicle for the space agency. But the Mars Mission demanded that a number of strains be placed on this as well. For instance, the orbit into which the Mars Orbiter had to be placed, demanded a flight, that too about 44 minutes, which is double the usual flight of a PSLV.
The rocket had to also fly east-by-southeast from the launch pad at Sriharikota to soar over the South Pacific.
But most significantly of all, the Mars Mission would be the first time ever that an ISRO mission would leave the Earth’s sphere of influence, which stretches 9,18,347 km from the planet’s surface. That is the next step that ISRO plans to achieve on November 30, 2013.
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