ISRO catapults Mangalyaan into Mars Transfer Trajectory, India into inter-planetary space

An illustration of the Trans Mars Injecton completed successfully by ISRO scientists on the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, on December 1, 2013. Image: ISRO
An illustration of the Trans Mars Injecton completed successfully by ISRO scientists on the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, on December 1, 2013. Image: ISRO
Scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) fired the 440 Newton liquid engine on board its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft in the early hours of today to propel it into Mars Transfer Trajectory and India into inter-planetary space for the very first time.
This was the last of six planned midnight manoeuvers aimed at helping the spacecraft, Mangalyaan, attain the escape velocity needed to break free from the Earth's gravitational pull and begin the second stage of its historic 300-day journey to the Red Planet.
"Trans Mars Injection (TMI) operations completed successfully. The liquid engine burn time was 1328.89 sec and the imparted incremental velocity was 647.96 m/sec," a brief post on ISRO's website said.
The operation operation began at 0049 hours today and was completed in 23 minutes, consuming 198 kg of fuel.
Earlier, the forward rotation of the spacecraft, to put it into the right orientation to perform the TMI operation, was completed sucessfully at 0030 hours IST.
On Novmber 27, Mangalyaan had entered its final orbit around Earth after passing its final perigree.
On November 16, ISRO had successfully completed the fifth orbit raising manoeuver of the spacecraft.
Earlier, on November 12, ISRO had completed a supplementary orbit raising manoeuvre on the spacecraft to overcome a minor hiccup that had occurred the previous day. In that manoeuver, the apogee was increased from 78276 km to 118642 km.
The supplementary manoeuver became necessary after ISRO was not able to raise the spacecraft's orbit to the required 100,000 km in the fourth orbit raising manoeuver, though it said the satellite was "in normal health".
Instead of flying directly to Mars, the spacecraft had orbited Earth for nearly a month to work up the velocity needed as it is first navigated to a hyperbolic departure trajectory and then made to traverse an interplanetary cruise before reaching the intended orbit around Mars.
The Mars Orbiter, India's first interplanetary spacecraft, was launched into an elliptical earth orbit with a perigee of 248.4 km and an apogee of 23,550 km, inclined at an angle of 19.27 deg to the equator, by India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in its 25th flight (PSLV-C25) at 1438 hours on November 5. The achieved orbit was very close to the intended one. 
The TMI completed today will enable the spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of Mars by September 2014 after a 300-day journey in deep space. 
At that time, the liquid engine will be fired again to slow down the spacecraft to enable it to be captured by Martian gravity into an orbit around it.
An ISRO press release said that, since its launch, all systems onboard the Mars Orbiter spacecraft are performing normally.
The spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennae at Byalalu, it added.
The Mars Orbiter Mission has attracted international attention, especially for its low price tag of Rs 450 crore, which is much lower than the cost of similar missions by other countries, such as NASA's Maven launched recently.
NASA and the Jet Propulsion Labaratory (JPL) of the United States are providing communications and navigation support to the ISRO mission with their Deep Space Network facilities.
ISRO sources said that one of the main objectives of the mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. 
The technical objectives include design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion / capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.
They also include deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management and incorporation of autonomous features to handle contingency situations.
The scientific objectives of the mission include exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.
If successful, the mission will make India one of the few space powers to have explored the Red Planet after Russia, the United States and Europe.
The orbiter craft is carrying five payloads, including Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Martian Exospheric Neutral Composition Explorer (MENCA), Mars Colour Camera (MCC) and TIR Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).
The objectives of these payloads are exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and the Martian atmosphere.

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