ISRO's PSLV delivers a 'near perfect' launch of India's first Mars mission

Mars MissionPSLV C25 blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Tuesday. REUTERS

In keeping with expectations, the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) trusted workhorse, the PSLV rocket, delivered a perfect launch to India's ambitions of reaching the Red Planet by parking the Mangalyaan spacecraft precisely outside Earth on Tuesday.

The 43-minute launch aboard the PSLV C25 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, some 80 km from Chennai, saw the Mangalyaan spacecraft placed in an argument of perigee of 282.75 degrees which was considered necessary to enable the actual 400 million km transition towards Mars on November 30.

It was a textbook launch for the Mangalyaan spacecraft — the 25th successful mission carried out by the PSLV rocket — and its progress through the 43-minute launch phase — the longest ever for a PSLV — went on cue, with the crucial third stage rockets firing at 33 minutes and the rocket initiating satellite separation at 43 minutes.

"The PSLV C 25 has placed the Mars Orbiter Mission very precisely in an elliptical orbit around Earth,'' ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan announced at Sriharikota minutes after satellite separation.

ISRO had indicated that a perfect launch of the Rs 450-crore Mars mission would involve achieving a perigee of 250 km (nearest distance to Earth) and an apogee of 23,500 km (furthest distance from Earth). The PSLV placed the spacecraft at a perigee of 246.9 km and an apogee of 23,566 km. "The satellite is placed well within the 675 km margin of error,'' said ISRO officials.

PSLV mission director P Kunhikrishnan said the 282.63 degree argument of apogee achieved by the launch was only fractionally off the 282.55 degree that would have been considered perfect.

The Earth orbit position that the PSLV parked the Mangalyaan spacecraft in on Tuesday is considered crucial since this will allow spacecraft scientists, who will now take over the mission, to transfer Mangalyaan into a Mars-bound orbit (trans Mars insertion) on November 30 by using a minimal amount of fuel.

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