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Isro-Mars orbiter mission life extended up to 2020

Kalyan Ray, Feb 8, 2017, New Delhi, DHNS 1:36 IST

Eclipse put its fate in jeopardy denying light to solar panels

 The on-board battery which was to take over had a life of just about 1.4 hours, while the eclipse was to last for 8 hours. The spacecraft's future was bleak. PTI File Photo.
A crucial orbital manoeuvring of India’s Mars probe has not only saved the spacecraft from imminent death, but also increased its life span by another three years till 2020.

The fate of the probe was in jeopardy as it was to face an eclipse during which dark shadows of the Red Planet was to fall on the satellite, denying its solar panels any light.

The on-board battery which was to take over had a life of just about 1.4 hours, while the eclipse was to last for 8 hours. The spacecraft's future was bleak.

The scientists thought of a solution. On the night of January 17, a team of eight engineers at Indian Space Research Organisation's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, Bengaluru, sent a time-delayed command to the Mars probe.

The command set in motion firing of eight on-board thruster rockets. Each of them were fired for 431 seconds, pushing the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) space probe to a new orbit that completely avoids an eclipse up to September 2017. The shadowing in September is of a smaller duration, which the satellite's batteries can handle.

“Because of the crucial orbital change, the MOM now gets three additional years’ life. We are expecting it to transmit data till 2020,” Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar told DH.

As against its designed life of six months, the MOM completed two-and-a-half years beaming pictures of the Red Planet back to the Earth and is likely to continue for another three years.

Last month's orbital manoeuvre exhausted almost 20 kg of fuel from the MOM’s stock of 30 kg.

The remaining 13 kg of fuel, Kiran Kumar said, was sufficient for the rest of its life.
The 1,337 kg probe, designed and developed on a shoestring budget of Rs 450 crore, was inserted into the Martian orbit in September 2014.

Most of the fuel was spent during its voyage to the Martian orbit. Some of the scientific tasks it performed include creation of a vertical dust profile of the Martian atmosphere, checking out the presence of carbon-containing methane in Mars and studying the noble gas Argon.

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