With the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) integrating payloads for the “Mars Orbiter Mission”, India’s plan to send a spacecraft to the red planet is inching towards reality. After leaving the earth’s orbit in November, the spacecraft will cruise in deep-space for about 10 months and will reach Mars around September 2014. Sources within the ISRO confirmed that the agency has begun integration of the payloads, adding that the preliminary design reviews are complete and the integration process has begun. “The structure has been delivered to clean room and the propulsion system integration is in the final stage,” a source said. Termed the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the spacecraft will be launched using the PSLV-C25. Sources said the agency’s first interplanetary mission to Mars will have a spacecraft designed to orbit the planet, adding that it will be placed in an elliptical orbit, where the nearest point from the surface of Mars will be 500 km and the farthest point will be 80,000 km. The 1,350-kg spacecraft will carry five instruments/payloads totaling a mass of 15-kg selected by the Advisory Committee for Space Sciences (ADCOS), to study the Martian surface, atmosphere and mineralogy (see box). Among the important things, ISRO plans to check for methane, map the surface, besides sending data from the optical imaging payload. Still high on the significant findings made by Chandrayaan-1, it would be another achievement for ISRO if methane is found on the planet, as it is an indication that life existed there. Former ISRO Chairman Dr U R Rao has also said in his interviews that human-kind should look at construction colonies on Mars. Officials pointed out that the major demands of the mission will be critical operations and stringent requirements on propulsion, communications and other bus systems of the spacecraft. “The primary driving technological objective of the mission is to design and realise a spacecraft with a capability to reach Mars (Martian transfer Trajectory), then to orbit around Mars (Mars Orbit Insertion) which will take about nine months,” the agency said. Given that the integration of the systems and the payload has already begun, the agency is planning to move the engine to Sriharikota by April end after the completion of the high vacuum testing here.
PAYLOAD & PRIMARY OBJECTIVE
Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP): Escape processes of Mars upper atmosphere through Deuterium/Hydrogen
Methane Sensor for MARS (MSM): Detect presence of Methane Martian Exospheric Composition Explorer (MENCA): Study the neutral composition of the Martian upper atmosphere
MARS Colour Camera (MCC): Optical imaging
TIR imaging spectrometer (TIS): Map surface composition and mineralogy