India’s maiden spacecraft to Mars headed early Sunday to the red planet 22 minutes after leaving earth’s gravity and entering the sun orbit in the interplanetary space. “The trans Mars injection operation was successful,” state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told IANS on phone. He said the orbit details would be known later and that all the systems were working well. “Everything went off well,” Radhakrishnan added.
A senior ISRO official said the activities went off in a copy book style. “The velocity given to the Mars Orbiter is as per earlier plans. Hence the orbital and other data will also be as per our earlier calculations,” he said. “The spacecraft is on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around sun,” ISRO said in a statement here. Also Read - Mi Notebook Pro X to be Xiaomi's most expensive laptop yet, launch tomorrow
However there were some anxious moments, according to Radhakrishnan. “There was a thunder storm in an area in South Africa where one of the ground stations tracking the spacecraft is located. We did not have the data from that station when the spacecraft engine was being fired. The data was registered there. Subsequently we got the data and it is fine now,” he said. Also Read - Ola to offer free oxygen concentrators to the needy
At the end of the crucial operation the scientists were happy and excited. “We are happy. Space scientists congratulated each other,” a senior ISRO official said. “Two of the three important phases in India’s Mars mission has been completed successfully. The first one was the launch of the Mars Orbiter precisely in the earth orbit (Nov 5). Now the spacecraft has been injected in trans Mars orbit,” M.Y.S.Prasad, director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) told IANS over phone.
“The third important operation will be entering the Mars orbit,” Prasad added. That will happen next year Sep. India is the first country in the world to successfully sling the Orbiter into the cosmos in its maiden attempt towards Mars, 440 million km away from earth in the solar system. The 440 Newton liquid engine burn time was 22.15 minutes and the imparted incremental velocity (speed) was 648 metres per second.
“The liquid engine onboard propelled the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) into sun orbit at 01:11AM and India into the interplanetary space,” a senior space agency official said.
Scientists at the Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (Istrac) of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) here fired the engine onboard by giving commands an hour in advance to the computer in the spacecraft. The Orbiter departed earth’s gravity at 12:49AM for its 680-million km voyage to reach Mars on Sep 24, 2014, ISRO director Deviprasad Karnic said.
Just after midnight, the spacecraft was rotated forward in the earth’s final orbit at 192,918 km apogee (farthest from equator) to position it in the right orientation at 12:30AM for the crucial sling manoeuvre at 12:49AM after onboard computer took over the operations. The 1,337 kg Orbiter is being monitored from Istrac with support from its deep space network antennae at Byalalu, about 40 km from Bangalore.
“All the main and redundancy systems have been checked and found to be functioning well,” ISRO’s satellite application centre director A.S. Kiran Kumar said over phone couple of hours before the firing of the spacecraft’s engine.
Venkatachari Jagannathan writes for IANS.