mars orbiter mission mangalyaan indian mars mission

How did India go to Mars on its first attempt?

Mars is the red planet. Humans since time immemorial have always been fascinated by the red planet. The development of science and technology since the industrial revolution had made possible the science of rocketry. With this the goal of humans to reach planets could come true.

Indian spacecraft known as Mangalyaan or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) became the first Asian spacecraft to orbit Mars. This mission was a great success to the Indian science and technology community. The spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on 24 September 2014. It was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh on 5 November 2013.

mars orbiter mission mangalyaan isro before launch
Indian Space Research Organisation/CC BY-SA 4.0/Source

The first time there was any report of Indian spacecraft planing to go to Mars was in 2008. India had just launched Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon and started a feasibility study to plan India’s mission to the moon. After Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) completed its studies and submitted to the central government, prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh approved the project on 3 August 2012.

The launch of the mission was initially planned for 28 October 2013, but was postponed to 5 November 2013 after the delays in getting the ISRO’s tracking ships in Pacific Ocean due to bad weather. The spacecraft planned to use the Hohmann Transfer Orbit to get to Mars, as this would be the most fuel-efficient. Launch windows for launching for such an orbit came in 2013. If this window failed, then ISRO had to consider launching at 2016 or 2018.

ISRO initially planned to launch Mangalyaan by its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), but GSLV had still problems and failures mainly due to its cryogenic engines. Hence PSLV-XL rocket was chosen for this mission. The mission was launched at 09:08 UTC on 5 November 2013. The spacecraft reached Earth orbit at 09:50 UTC. The orbit was highly elliptical with a Perigee of 264.1 km and Apogee of 23903.6km.

While in Earth orbit, six orbit raising manoeuvres were performed by the spacecraft’s 440N engine, up to ten days after launch. While most of the burns were successful, one burn was incomplete, but was rectified in the next supplementary burn. At 19:19 UTC on 30 November 2013, the engine was fired for 23 minutes to put the spacecraft into transfer orbit to get it to Mars.

Narendra Modi prime minister in isro control center to watch mangalyaan mars orbiter mission mars orbital insertion
Prime Minister’s Office/GODL/Source

While on a transfer orbit to Mars, four trajectory correction manoeuvres were planned, but only three burns were made since the spacecraft was so close to actual planned trajectory. The spacecraft traveled for 78 crore kilometers before reaching the vicinity of Mars. At 01:26 UTC on 24 September 2014, the forward rotation of the spacecraft was made to perform deceleration burn. Attitude control was made using thrusters and liquid apogee motor was again fired for orbit insertion into Mars.

The spacecraft successfully entered the Martian orbit. India became the first Asian country to reach Mars. Prime Minster Narendra Modi was in the ISRO control center when the orbit insertion took place.

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