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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Mangalyaan, India's 2013 Mars mission, is now under construction

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

27-09-2012 12:33 CDT

Topics: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status

While the rest of the world was focused on the early days of the Curiosity mission, India's prime minister Manmohan Singh announced  the intent to build and launch a Mars orbiter in time for the November 2013 launch window. This is an insanely fast schedule, especially for a country's first spacecraft to be sent beyond the Moon. Of course, India builds and launches many Earth-orbiting satellites, so the necessary industry is in place; still, it seems unlikely that a mission can be built and tested properly so quickly. I gain nothing by predicting delay or doom, though. Instead, I'll hope for success and wish India good fortune in the development and launch.

This is the only picture I have seen of the proposed design:



Artist's concept of ISRO's Mangalyaan Mars orbiter.

There does not seem to be an official website for the mission, much less any online press releases from ISRO, so details are sketchy and available mostly only through newspaper articles, which I am hesitant to rely upon. Reports are appearing this week in Asian media (see here, here, and here) that the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has now delivered the structure of the spacecraft to ISRO. Thanks to Pradeep Mohandas for a link to the HAL press release, which I reproduce in full here:

Bangalore, September 21, 2012: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has handed over the Mars Orbiter Mission Satellite Structure to ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) here recently. The mission is aimed at studying the climate, geology, origin and evolution of the red planet.

“The satellite structure is an assembly of composite and metallic honeycomb sandwich panels with a central composite cylinder”, says Mr. R.K. Tyagi, Chairman, HAL. The assembly work was carried out at HAL’s Aerospace Division in Bangalore. ISRO will build the other satellite subsystems and scientific payload onto this structure. The completed satellite will ultimately embark on a nine month voyage to orbit planet Mars. During its orbit the satellite will be at a distance of 54.6 million kms away from Earth: the farthest any Indian satellite would have travelled.

There's no photo of the structure itself, though there is a photo of HAL and ISRO personnel involved in the delivery. Pradeep told me: "HAL is a government enterprise and it is for the first time that the Mission Director [Mylswamy Annadurai] has been named. Annadurai was also the Mission Director of the Chandrayaan-I mission."

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited delivers Mangalyaan-1 basic structure to ISRO


Hindustan Aeronautics Limited delivers Mangalyaan-1 basic structure to ISRO
Dr. Jeyakar Vedamanickam, GM, Aerospace Division, HAL (centre-right), handing over the Quality documents to Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, Programme Director, Mars Orbiter Mission, ISRO Satellite Center (ISAC), September 21, 2012.

Based on the description in the press release, the item that has been delivered likely looks quite a bit like MAVEN's primary structure, which was delivered almost exactly a year ago, for a mission that is planned to launch in the same November 2013 window:

MAVEN primary structure

Lockheed Martin

MAVEN primary structure
Technicians from Lockheed Martin are inspecting the MAVEN primary structure following its September 2011 completion at the company's Composites Lab near Denver.

The best place to watch for news of the development of the Mangalyaan mission is this discussion forum at

See other posts from September 2012


Or read more blog entries about: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status


bware: 09/27/2012 01:37 CDT

Good Luck India!

Olaf: 09/27/2012 01:43 CDT

Well, as far as a mission website is concerned, they seem to have one here: It's mostly still under construction, though.

Hardik: 09/28/2012 02:20 CDT

The project is under construction. Yes I agree that this project was sudden..but India space researchers know their priorities ..

manoj: 09/28/2012 06:03 CDT

sorry to distract the readers......i just has question for the lady blogger and although i am sure i am not the first one. :) do you know what "lakdawalla" means?? its means the one who supplies/owns woods. you seems to have indian sirname. do have some any indian connections?? -loved you post thanks

Ashwini: 09/28/2012 03:40 CDT

India is going to show the world that they can do it...

Torbjörn Larsson: 09/29/2012 08:13 CDT

Good investment all around. Oh, and good luck India!

fthurber: 09/29/2012 08:59 CDT

To create and launch such a mission in such a short time would be a huge technical accomplishment. Beware; Mars has a curse on it. Russia has basically lost all their Mars missions (or lost them shortly after arrival at Mars) and their latest mission is currently on the floor of the Pacific ocean. The US has had failures also (but not recently). Europe had one highly successful mission (Express) but the lander associated with this mission (Beagle) was swallowed up by the Mars curse and never heard from again. Good luck; it should be exciting.

Emily: 10/02/2012 12:52 CDT

Olaf: That site is the Indian Space Science Data Centre, which I can only assume is similar to the National Space Science Data Center -- it's run by NASA but is not itself in charge of any missions or the originator of information, merely the aggregator of information and data on missions. Hopefully there'll be an ISRO site at some point. manoj: My husband is Parsi.

Arun : 02/22/2013 06:20 CST

Our President just declared it in the Parliament. But I am still worried about our continuous failures on GSLV. We didn't mastered GSLV yet. The ingeniously made Cryogenic Engine "Cauvery" never worked. In Mars Mission we are just going to send 15 Kg of payload. and going to take picture of martian surface from 371KM distance. What is the use ? What are we trying to achieve from this? just a pride to say we also send a martian probe like Americans or Russians ? Or just feel proud about Chinese unable to do so and we are ahead of Chinese ? Or just a make pakistani's envy?

dharshini: 02/24/2013 07:15 CST

Emily: In mangalyaan satellite, one of the payload mars color camera will be kept inside the satellite. It will capture the visible light spectrum colors inside the satellite. It will not take the photos of the planet mars. (Inside the satellite, one lamp's light will be passed over the prism. The 7 colors come out from the prism will be displayed on one white screen. The mars color camera will capture the 7 colors vibgyor on screen. This images will be sent to earth). The prime aim of the Isro is to find the visible light spectrum colors variation in the gravitational area of mars. This idea, i have sent the mail to chandrayaan project Director. So they are doing this project very fastly. As per my assumption, the color orange will not be in the visible light spectrum of mars.

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