Bangalore centre to control Mars orbiter henceforth
The city is at the heart of India's Mars mission after the spacecraft's successful launch into earth’s orbit on Tuesday from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The Mars orbiter was injected into earth’s orbit 44 minutes after launch. From precisely that moment to the last day of the spacecraft’s life, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) centre at Peenya in the city — the Isro Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC) will take charge of the spacecraft’s behaviour, attitude and life. A senior Isro official told Deccan Herald: “If anybody has anything to do with the satellite once launched, it is ISTRAC, Peenya. Even international stations will be in touch with Peenya. No other centre is involved.”
The ISTRAC will begin with controlling the movement and manoeuvres of the orbiter over the 25 days it will go around earth (perigee of 250 km and apogee of 23,500 km) before being placed on the trajectory to Mars.
ISTRAC will raise the orbit of the spacecraft through specific commands, after which it will fire six times before the final firing on December 1 that will propel it towards Mars.
“Decisions are taken here on exactly when the firings should happen, their duration and number,” said the Isro official.
The spacecraft journey to Mars from the edge of earth’s orbit is expected to begin around 12:42 am on December 1.
ISTRAC will have to ensure precise communication and commands to the spacecraft to ensure that it does not stray.
The entire health of the spacecraft, from the moment of injection into earth’s orbit to the end of mission around Mars after six months, will be monitored by the Bangalore centre.
All data from the spacecraft will come to ISTRAC Peenya, including telemetry.
The centre will also track the health of the spacecraft during its travel — over 280-300 days to reach Mars 400 million km away. It is expected to reach the Red Planet's orbit by September 24 next year, and enter an elliptical orbit (periapsis of 366 km and apo-apsis of 80,000 km).
If orbit manoeuvres become necessary, ISTRAC will undertake them through a data centre at Byalalu, off Mysore road, which has two big antennae.
ISTRAC has ground stations at Lucknow, Sriharikota, Thiruvananthapuram, Port Blair Island, Brunei, Biak (Indonesia) and Mauritius, all of which report to Bangalore — the headquarters.