Friday, April 17, 2015

India's Mars Orbiter Mission Can Survive for ‘Years’ in Martian Orbit, Says ISRO Chief

Mars as seen by India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Credit: ISRO

India’s first interplanetary expedition – Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan – has completed over 800 orbiting circles of the “Red Planet”. The orbiter that has already completed the scheduled six months, encircling Mars, can last several “years” in the Martian orbit with the 39 kilograms of fuel that it still has in it’s fuel tanks, said AS Kiran Kumar, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Mangalyaan had entered the Martian orbit on September 24, 2014 after NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiter that began encircling Mars on September 5, 2014. MAVEN has completed over 1000 orbits of Mars in about 200 days. Both ISRO’s and NASA’s mission are aimed at studying the Martian atmosphere.

“Their (MAVEN’s) orbital period is shorter. We take about 2.5-3 days to complete an orbit…. Ours is a highly elliptical orbit and so we will take more time…..Their orbit is probably one-third of ours. In the six months (about 180 days), we have completed about 800 orbits of Mars,” said Kiran Kumar while talking to mediapersons about the mission on the sidelines of Gujarat Innovation Society Award Function in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

“Originally when we planned the mission, the life of MoM was estimated to be about six months after the insertion (into the Martian orbit). So on March 24, we completed our originally planned mission. But all subsystem are still working fine and we have a fuel of 39 kilograms still remaining. So it can last for a long time,” the said of ISRO said emphasising that the MoM could survive for “years” in the Martian orbit.

The Ceramic Servo Accelerometer, weighing about 50 grams, have one of the most important fuel-saving devices on-board the Mangalyaan which is carrying five important payloads including a Mars Colour Camera, Methane Sensor for Mars, Lyman Alpha Photometer, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer. Last year, Joji Chaman, Group Head, Mechanical Design and Production, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvanathapuram had received the prestigious Shri Hari Om Ashram Prerit Dr Vikram Sarabhai Research Award 2013 for developing the device along with his team.

“But we have one major event which we have to look at. Sometime in June, this year we have for two weeks a communication blackout, because the Sun, Earth and Mars will be in the same line, as a result of which no communication will be possible for 14 days. So during that time, the autonomous systems built in the satellite is supposed to take care of all operations. But anyway, we have to wait and watch,” Kiran Kumar said.

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