The Journey of MOM – ISRO’s Mangalyaan

The Mars Orbitor Mission (MOM), Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) first mission to send a Mangalyaan satellite in the orbit of Mars was launched on 5th November 2013. While Congress President Sonia Gandhi and many others lauded ISRO scientists for their successful launch, former chairman of ISRO and `Moon Man’ Dr G Madhavan Nair called the Mars mission as a voyage that had no value for money. Nair said the money (Rs 450 crore) could have been spent on a mission that would have served the nation’s needs. “There is nothing significant to find on Mars. If someone says India is going to find life on Mars, it is nothing but moonshine”, he told TV channels. But, Nair’s former chief Prof U R Rao hit back saying Mangalyaan is a prestigious mission and that more money is being spent on Diwali crackers.

ISRO scientist kept their cool and continued with their mission. China was delighted by the launch and called for joint efforts in space research. “Outer space is shared by the entire mankind. Every country has the right to make peaceful exploration and use of outer space,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing when he was asked about India’s Mars probe on 6th November 2013. The very same day, Mangalyaan had placed itself in the Earth’s orbit and was functioning smoothly. It was announced that the very next day its orbit was going to be raised. “Since its injection into Earth’s orbit yesterday, it has been functioning smoothly on the orbit. We are planning to perform orbit raising maneuvers in the early hours of tomorrow,” an ISRO spokesman told PTI over phone. At that time the Mars Orbit was on its first round around the Earth according to ISRO sources. The spacecraft would go around the Earth five times before going out of the earth bound orbit into sun-centric orbit on December one. It will then go around the sun embarking on its nine-month voyage to the red planet.

The Journey of MOM – ISRO’s Mangalyaan

1st and 2nd orbit raising maneuvers

The first orbit raising activity for the Mars Orbiter was successfully completed on 7th November 2013. According to ISRO, the first orbit raising maneuver started at 1.17 a.m. ISRO officials then told IANS the on-board motors of Mars Orbiter will be fired for around 200 seconds to raise its orbit by around 4,120 km to 28,785 km.

The second orbit raising manouevres for the Mars Orbiter was completed successfully on 8th November 2013. According to ISRO, the second orbit raising maneuver started at 2.18 a.m. The on-board motor of Mars Orbiter was fired for 570.6 seconds taking up the Mars Orbiter to 40,186 km apogee (farthest point to the Earth) from the earlier levels of 28,814 km.

3rd and 4th orbit raising maneuvers

The third orbit raising maneuvers of the Mars Orbiter spacecraft was performed early this morning, raising its apogee, the farthest point from Earth, to over 71,000 km. The maneuver started at 2:10 AM today and raised the spacecraft’s apogee from 40,186 km to 71,636 km with a burn time of 707 seconds, ISRO said. The fourth and fifth operations would be performed on 11th and 16th November 2013 to raise the apogee to 1,00,000 km and 1,92,000 km respectively. After the successful completion of these operations, the mission is expected to take on the “crucial event” of the trans-Mars injection around 12.42 AM on 1st December 2013.

After having successfully completed three orbit raising manoeuvres, ISRO’s Mars Orbiter mission suffered a glitch as it failed to achieve the targeted apogee (farthest distance from Earth) of one lakh km during the fourth orbit raising operation in the early hours. However, the national space agency clarified that the Mars Orbiter was “normal” and said a supplementary orbit raising operation has been planned at 5 am on 12th November 2013 to raise the apogee to nearly one lakh km.

During the fourth orbit raising operations which commenced at 2:06 am, the redundancies built-in for the propulsion system were exercised, including energizing the primary and redundant coils of the solenoid flow control valve of 440 Newton Liquid Engine and logic for thrust augmentation by the attitude control thrusters, when needed.

“However, when both primary and redundant coils were energised together, as one of the planned modes, the flow to the liquid engine stopped.The thrust level augmentation logic, as expected, came in and the operation continued using the attitude control thrusters.This sequence resulted in reduction of the incremental velocity,” ISRO said in a statement.

The space agency said while this parallel mode of operating the two coils was not possible for subsequent operations, they could be operated independently in sequence.

During the orbit raising operations conducted since November 7, ISRO has been testing and exercising the autonomy functions progressively, that are essential for Trans-Mars Injection and Mars Orbit Insertion.

During the first three orbit-raising operations, the prime and redundant chains of gyros, accelerometers, 22 Newton attitude control thrusters, attitude and orbit control electronics as well as the associated logics for their fault detection isolation and reconfiguration were exercised successfully, the space agency said.

“The prime and redundant star sensors have been functioning satisfactorily. The primary coil of the solenoid flow control valve was used successfully for the first three orbit-raising operations,” it said in a statement.

In the fourth orbit raising operation today, the apogee was raised to 78,276 km against the target of about one lakh km, because incremental velocity imparted to the spacecraft was 35 m/s against the targeted 130 m/s, ISRO said.

The Journey of MOM – ISRO’s Mangalyaan

The fifth and last orbit-raising maneuver was conducted on 16th November 2013 and was successful. On 10th April 2014, the Orbitor had crossed its halfway mark and the spacecraft and its five scientific instruments were in good health according to ISRO scientist. On 22nd September 2014, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission faced its first test at around 2.30 p.m. today when the main liquid engine of the spacecraft was successfully fired for about four seconds. ISRO scientist at first were skeptical whether the engines would start as it was idle for 300 days. But their worries were put to rest when the engine did work and the Orbitor was on course to reach Mars.

History made

On 24th September 2014, at 7.17 AM, the 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) sizzled with life as it burnt along with the thrusters to slow down the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft to be captured by the Red Planet. This created history for India as it became the first country in the world to succeed in such an inter-planetary mission in the maiden attempt itself. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi the odds were stacked against “us with only 21 of the 51 missions to Mars being successful,” but “we have prevailed.

Congratulations poured in for ISRO from the country and from all around the world. The Mars Orbitor also has a Twitter account which began today. Some of its tweets:

Compiled by: Abhishek Vissapragada

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