Scientific payloads for India's Mars Orbiter will be received in the end of this month for integration with Mars-bound spacecraft which is scheduled to be launched on November 27 this year, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman, K Radhakrishnan has said.
The Mars Orbiter mission is the country's most ambitious mission so far as it would be the first time that any Indian satellite would have gone as far as the Red Planet which is estimated to be about 54.6 million Kilometres away, taking a journey time of nine months for it to reach Mars.
Radhakrishnan said preparations are in full swing at Master Control Facility (MCF) in Hassan, in Karnataka, and the Deep Space Network (DSN) at Bylalu, about 35 Km from Bangalore.
The Mars Orbiter will carry onboard nine scientific instruments with a scientific objective to study the Martian surface, its atmosphere and sustainability of life.
The Mars orbiter will be placed in an orbit of 371 x 80,000 km around Mars and will have a provision to carry 14.49 kg of scientific payload on- board. (Initially, a 25 kg payload was planned, but it was later scaled down.)
ISRO had initially planned to use the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) to launch a 500 kg Mars orbiter, but then decided to launch the mission on board Isro successful workhorse, the Polar-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-XL (PSLV-XL) due to back-to-back failures of the GSLV in 2010. The PSLV was also used to launch India's Chandrayaan-1 mission, the unmanned lunar mission which ended up with a breakthrough discovery of water molecules on the lunar surface.
The orbiter payload, the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) that will propel it to Mars and the rocket motor that will slow it down for Mars orbit insertion, will together weigh 1.35 tons.
According to the planned mission profile, the LAM will be fired six times to progressively raise the orbit of the Mars Orbiter around Earth before sending it on its 55 million Km journey to Mars, much like a slingshot used by farmers to shoo away birds and scavengers from eating crops.
According to the Indian space scientists, the Mars orbiter would be launched over a month before it begins its journey towards the red planet to give mission planners sufficient time to raise its orbit to gain the momentum required to propel the Mars Orbiter towards its destination.
The rocket engine on the Mars orbiter that will be used to slow it down for orbital insertion around Mars is capable of generating a 440 Newton thrust.
The space scientists had determined three launch windows for the mission: between November 2013 and January 2014; between Jan and April 2016; and between April and May, 2018.
Finally November 27, 2013 was chosen as the day as it would give the space scientists the first opportunity of taking a crack when Mas would be closest to Earth nine months later at a distance of 54.6 million Km.
The Mars mission would estimated to cost Rs450 crore and a budgetary allocation of Rs125 crore has been made specifically for it.
India will be the sixth country to launch a mission to Mars after the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China.