Mars mission gets October, 2013 launch date deadline as India reaches out to the stars
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Work on the Mars Orbiter Mission, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day address last year, is going on full steam and equipment of the five experiments planned during the mission are expected to be delivered to ISRO in March.
"We should get the five payloads by March and we plan to start integrating them in the satellite from April," Jitendra Nath Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory and closely involved with the Mars mission, said.
ISRO's trusted warhorse rocket PSLV-XL is expected to launch the mission some time in October from the spaceport Sriharikota which will first keep orbiting the earth, achieving the necessary velocity to escape the earth's gravitational pull.
As per existing plans, the satellite is expected to exit the Earth's orbit on November 26 and embark on the journey to Mars which is expected to last for around 300 days.
The scientists have drawn up plans to insert the satellite in an orbit around Mars on September 22 next year.
Once in the Martian orbit, the satellite will start taking pictures of the red planet with an onboard colour camera and infra-red spectrometer, while the Lyman-alpha photometer would measure atomic hydrogen in the Martian atmosphere.
"The previous missions to Mars have shown that there was water on the planet. We would want to know how and why the planet lost water and carbon dioxide," Goswami told reporters on the sidelines of the 100th Indian Science Congress here. "Nobody has done research why water was lost. We are trying to do things which were not precisely or exactly done," Goswami said.
Among the payloads for the mission is the Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser which would study the Martian atmosphere and a Methane Sensor to look for of the gas, considered as a signature for life, on the planet.
"We want to know whether the source of methane is thermogenic or biogenic," he said.
The Thermal Infrared Imaging System would take pictures of the planet during the night. A key challenge before the scientists is navigating the spacecraft from the earth to Mars in deep space using the Deep Space Network at Baylalu on the outskirts of Bangalore.
Another challenge would be to re-activate the temporary inactive sub-systems of the spacecraft once it reaches Mars after a 10-month journey through deep space.
The liquid rocket engine, capable of generating a 440 Newton thrust, would be required to steer the spacecraft into the Martian orbit.
The spacecraft will have bi-propellant system using monomethylhydrazine and di-nitrogen tetroxide as fuel with additional safety and redundancy features for Mars orbit insertion.
The spacecraft, with a 1350 kg lift-off mass, will have a single solar array with three panels of 1400 x 1800 mm capable of generating 750 watts of power in the Martian orbit.
It will also be equipped with a 36 AH Lithium-ion battery for power storage.
For attitude and orbit control, the spacecraft will be equipped with four reaction wheels, eight thrusters of 22 Newton each and a 440 Newton liquid rocket engine.
The Mars mission will propel India to the elite club of five nations comprising the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan which have launched similar missions.