MOM and MAVEN approach Mars

Both the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM – Mangalyaan, budget $70 million) and NASA’s MAVEN (budget $672 million) are now approaching Mars. Both are doing well according to their latest status updates.

MOM was launched on 5th November last year and MAVEN on 18th November, 2013. Whereas MAVEN on its Atlas 5 rocket could directly enter into a  Hohmann Transfer Orbit with periapsis at Earth’s orbit and apoapsis at the distance of the orbit of Mars, MOM had to take the low-cost, scenic route. Because of the relatively low payload capability of the PSLV launch rocket, MOM had to spend 26 days in ever-increasing earth orbits. MOM had to fire its Liquid Motor six times to work its way up to departing Earth orbit using a standard Hohmann Transfer Orbit on 1st December.

Alternate paths to Mars: NASA’s MAVEN compared to India’s MOM

MAVEN - MOM trajectories

MAVEN – MOM trajectories

 

When they were launched MAVEN was expected to reach Mars on 22nd September 2014 and MOM 2 days later on 24th September 2014. The time lines have shifted slightly subsequent to the mid-course corrections carried out and MOM is now expected to reach Mars orbit about a week ahead of MAVEN. I suspect that the time of Mars Orbit Insertion is still a little fluid, but both are about 1 month away. MOM is currently about 6 minutes away in radio signal distance.

Discovery News:

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is more than 80 percent of the way to Mars and performing well, according to a Facebook update posted July 21 by the Indian Space Research Organization. MOM is expected to enter orbit on Sept. 14.

The second craft, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), is also performing well. MAVEN is scheduled to embark on its final approach to the Red Planet on Sept. 21, one week after MOM’s arrival, principal investigator Bruce Jakosky said. After months of checkouts and tests, the spacecraft will now be left quiet until close to the big day.

NASA’s MAVEN has now gone into a “pre-Mars Orbit Insertion moratorium.” All systems required for a safe Mars Orbit Insertion remain powered on. But other systems like the instruments are shut down until late September because they are not needed for a successful MOI. We want the spacecraft system to be as “quiet” as possible and in the safest condition during the critical event on September 21st”.

Related: Frugal engineering for India’s Mars mission

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