India’s frugal Mars orbiter mission completes 3rd burn in earth orbit

There has been some criticism  (within and outside India) from the usual suspects about the frugally-engineered, Indian, Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter mission as “being too expensive” for a developing country like India. I tend to discount these voices which merely continue the long, retrograde and shameful tradition of the Luddites. Some of these voices are of those who would like humankind to return to the trees. Others are of those who feel threatened by the idea of “backward nations” moving into space.

Reaching Mars is not that easy. More missions have failed than have succeeded. The full list of Mars missions is here. There are many crucial steps left for the Mangalyaan mission to achieve and success is far from assured.

TOI: India’s Mars Rover Mission (MOM) named ‘Mangalyaan’ is the 42nd mission aimed at understanding Mars. Out of the 41 missions so far, 25 have been declared failures and only 16 have been a success. Even the latest Phobos-Grunt/Yinghuo-1 launched by Russia/China was a failure as it got stranded in the earth’s orbit. 

Close on the heels of ‘Mangalyaan’ being sent into space by India, the United States (US) is also gearing up for the MAVEN mission to be launched on November 18, 2013. The mission is intended to be a step towards ‘unravelling the planetary puzzle about Mars’. The US is also gearing up for the Mars Rover 2020 mission to understand ‘Martian atmosphere’.

Underlying all missions is the vision of Mars one day being inhabited by humans. And that vision transcends the petty and mean criticism of those who can only see a “glass half empty”.

Last night the 3rd of five rocket burns was completed to lift the earth orbit of Mangalyaan from 40,186 km to 71,636 km (apogee). The fourth and fifth burns are planned for November 11th and 16th to raise the apogee to 100,000 km and then to 192,000 km. The 6th burn will be to leave Earth’s orbit and  insert the spacecraft into a trajectory towards Mars. The Trans-Mars injection is expected around 12.42 AM on December 1st.

ISRO: The third orbit raising manoeuvre of Mars Orbiter Spacecraft, starting at 02:10:43 hrs(IST) on Nov 09, 2013, with a burn time of 707 seconds has been successfully completed. The observed change in Apogee is from 40186km to 71636km.

ISRO’s Mission Profile.

The Launch Vehicle – PSLV-C25 will inject the Spacecraft into an Elliptical Parking Orbit with a perigee of 250 km and an apogee of 23,500 km. With six Liquid Engine firing, the spacecraft is gradually maneuvered into a hyperbolic trajectory with which it escapes from the Earth’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) and arrives at the Mars Sphere of Influence. When spacecraft reaches nearest point of Mars (Peri-apsis), it is maneuvered in to an elliptical orbit around Mars by firing the Liquid Engine. The spacecraft then moves around the Mars in an orbit with Peri-apsis of 366 km and Apo-apsis of about 80000 km. 

The mission consists of following three phases:

1. Geo Centric Phase
The spacecraft is injected into an Elliptic Parking Orbit by the launcher. With six main engine burns, the spacecraft is gradually maneuvered into a departure hyperbolic trajectory with which it escapes from the Earth’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) with Earth’s orbital velocity + V boost. The SOI of earth ends at 918347 km from the surface of the earth beyond which the perturbing force on the orbiter is mainly due to the Sun. One primary concern is how to get the spacecraft to Mars, on the least amount of fuel. ISRO uses a method of travel called a Hohmann Transfer Orbit – or a Minimum Energy Transfer Orbit – to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars with the least amount of fuel possible. 

2. Helio Centric Phase
The spacecraft leaves Earth in a direction tangential to Earth’s orbit and encounters Mars tangentially to its orbit. The flight path is roughly one half of an ellipse around sun. Eventually it will intersect the orbit of Mars at the exact moment when Mars is there too. This trajectory becomes possible with certain allowances when the relative position of Earth, Mars and Sun form an angle of approximately 44o. Such an arrangement recur periodically at intervals of about 780 days. Minimum energy opportunities for Earth-Mars occur in November 2013, January 2016, May 2018 etc. 

3. Martian Phase
The spacecraft arrives at the Mars Sphere of Influence (around 573473 km from the surface of Mars) in a hyperbolic trajectory. At the time the spacecraft reaches the closest approach to Mars (Periapsis), it is captured into planned orbit around mars by imparting ∆V retro which is called the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) manoeuvre. The Earth-Mars trajectory is shown in the above figure. ISRO plans to launch the Mars Orbiter Mission during the November 2013 window utilizing minimum energy transfer opportunity.

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3 Responses to “India’s frugal Mars orbiter mission completes 3rd burn in earth orbit”

  1. akhilaakho22 Says:

    Reblogged this on Akhila's Discovery.

  2. Indian Mars orbiter’s fourth burn in earth orbit only partially succesful | The k2p blog Says:

    […] Indian Mars Orbiter Mission met its first setback last night when the planned 4th burn in earth orbit was achieved but did not […]

  3. UPDATE! Indian Mars orbiter supplementary firing successful | The k2p blog Says:

    […] India’s frugal Mars orbiter mission completes 3rd burn in earth orbit […]

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