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Updates on ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission: five instruments to be delivered in March

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

04-01-2013 11:27 CST

Topics: mission status, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

Several news articles appeared in Indian media today about the upcoming launch of ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission. It's the first time I've seen such detailed information about the spacecraft. There were two distinct articles appearing across numerous media outlets, so it must be a wire story or perhaps even an ISRO press release; I'm not sure how these things work in India. There isn't a release posted on ISRO's website, as far as I can find. Here's a summary of those, one printed in the Deccan Chronicle, Economic Times, Indian Express, and elsewhere, and the other posted at Parda Phash, IBN live, and other places.

The information comes out during the 100th Indian Science Congress, taking place this week in Kolkata.

  • Spacecraft facts:
    • Its main engine generates 440 Newtons of thrust.
    • Launch mass: 1350 kg.
    • It bears a single solar panel, 1.4 by 1.8 meters, producing 750W at Mars. [Note: This doesn't jibe with the single image that I have managed to find of the orbiter, posted below; that one appears to have a three-section panel, with each section possibly 1.4 by 1.8 meters. I can't explain the discrepancy.]
    • For attitude control it has four reaction wheels, eight 22-Newton thrusters.
  • Those are mostly pretty similar to Chandrayaan-1, except for the size of the solar panel. Chandrayaan-1 had a single 2.15-by-1.8-meter panel that generated 750W at the Moon. My guess is that the diagram below is correct and that the Mars spacecraft has a single solar array consisting of three panels 1.4 by 1.8 meters each, which would, together, manage to produce similar power at Mars that the single, larger panel did at the Moon.
  • Five instruments have been selected, including:
    • A color camera
    • A Thermal Infrared Imaging System
    • A Lyman-alpha photometer
    • An Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer
    • A Methane Sensor
  • The engineering model is complete, and the flight model should be completed in March.
  • ISRO expects instruments to be delivered in March for integration beginning in April.
  • Launch to Earth orbit will take place "some time in October."
  • The spacecraft will depart Earth orbit on November 26 and arrive at Mars on September 22, 2014.

The mission does not yet have a formal name ("Mangalyaan" is not it -- as far as I can tell, that name was made up by newspapers needing a name and following the "Chandrayaan" convention). For lack of a better one, though, I'll not change it in my previous posts until we find out what the formal name is going to be.

Jitendra Nath Goswami, director of ISRO's Physical Research Laboratory, is quoted as saying: "We are trying hard and by mid-October we are expecting to launch the Mars mission." And: "The mission has a very specific science objective as we want to study the atmosphere of Mars. This mission will explore things which have not been done previously by other countries." And: "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."

Although these goals sound similar to those of NASA's MAVEN, the instrument package is more general than MAVEN's -- color imaging, nighttime thermal infrared, and so on. Only the Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer seems to overlap with MAVEN. In any case, it's my impression that science is only a secondary goal for this mission. The primary goals are engineering ones: simply to succeed at launching a spacecraft on an Earth-to-Mars transfer orbit, successfully navigate it to Mars, successfully enter orbit at Mars, and operate it there at all would be major achievements for India, regardless of any scientific data return.



Artist's concept of ISRO's Mangalyaan Mars orbiter.
See other posts from January 2013


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


Sachi Mohanty: 02/16/2013 08:34 CST

Hope the mission succeeds. Best wishes to ISRO!

dharshini: 02/24/2013 12:44 CST

I think, the payload mars color camera will take the photos of visible light spectrum colors in mars' gravitational area. After success of this experiment, our conventional light theory will be changed. Best wishes to ISRO!

Deoy: 10/31/2013 06:39 CDT

those interested in India's Mars mission should also check this article in economic times on cost economics of the mission in comparison with NASA and other space agencies

David Sims: 11/09/2013 05:39 CST

If Mangalyaan departs Earth orbit on 1 Dec 2013 and arrives on 22 Sep 2014, the transfer orbit will be something like: semimajor axis between 1.19088 and 1.23895 AU, eccentricity between 0.196991 and 0.204315, inclination to Earth's orbit 2.674°, longitude of ascending node 70.799°, argument of perihelion between 0 and 35.084°. The arc of true anomaly during transit will be 215.113°, and the transit time will be between 268.425 and 322.443 days. ISRO is saying the transit time is 295 days, which is about the average of the extremes, so maybe the elements of the actual transfer orbit is something of an average too.

David Sims: 11/09/2013 05:55 CST

They're calling the transfer orbit a Hohmann transfer, but, strictly, it is not, since it goes substantially more than half-way around the sun. The circumference of the entire orbit ellipse is about 7.556 AU of which Mangalyaan will travel 680 million kilometers between departure and arrival.

David Sims: 11/09/2013 06:01 CST

Someone might want to check my math. I'm using the mean elements for Earth and for Mars. Earth at 12h UT on 1 December 2013 (departure) | t₁ = JD 2456628 | x₁ = +0.3242129065 | y₁ = +0.9309775284 | z₁ = 0 || Mars at 12h UT on 22 September 2014 (arrival) | t₂ = JD 2456923 | x₂ = +0.3899647804 | y₂ = −1.3705690670 | z₂ = −0.03825134369 || t₂−t₁= 295 days | r₁ = 0.9858159905 | r₂ = 1.4254807128 | d = 2.3028033362

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