India’s ambitious Mars mission remained on track despite an orbit-raising manoeuvre falling short of the targeted height due to a glitch in the propulsion system on Monday.
The manoeuvre at 2.06am to raise the apogee (farthest point from Earth) of Mangalyaan from 71,623 km to 100,000 km could only achieve 78,276 km.
This was the first orbit-raising move to fall short of objective after three successful manoeuvres following the launch on November 5.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) dismissed alarms over the below par performance.
“The spacecraft is in normal health. There is no concern at all. There is no problem at all in the system. The Mars mission is 100% safe,” a spokesperson of the Bangalore-headquartered Isro said.
On the glitch, an Isro statement said, “During the fourth orbit-raising operations, the redundancies built-in for the propulsion system were exercised. However, when both primary and redundant coils were energised together, as one of the planned modes, the flow to the liquid engine stopped.”
The space agency has planned a supplementary orbit-raising operation at 5am on Tuesday to raise the apogee to the targeted 100,000 km.
During the orbit-raising operations conducted since November 7, Isro has been testing and exercising the autonomy functions progressively that are essential for Trans-Mars Injection (TMI) and Mars Orbit Insertion.
The Mars Orbiter Spacecraft is scheduled to leave Earth’s sphere of influence on December 1 and move to the Trans Martian Orbit. It is slated to move into the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.
The Mangalyaan probe, India’s first interplanetary mission, has a Rs 450-crore price tag, which is less than a sixth of the amount earmarked for a Mars probe to be launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).
Only the US, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on Mars. Probes to Mars have a high failure rate and a success will be a boost for national pride, especially after a similar mission by China failed to leave Earth’s orbit in 2011.
China closely followed Mangalyaan’s successful launch, which will aid India’s efforts to capture more of the $304 billion (Rs 18.73 lakh crore) global space market with its low-cost technology.