Despite a minor setback, India’s MOM spacecraft is back on track following a successful orbit-raising maneuver on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The maneuver began at 5:03 a.m. IST, or around 6:40 p.m. EST, on Nov. 11, and it successfully raised the spacecraft to the targeted 1,000 km.
The Indian Space Research Organization, ISRO, posted updates on the operation on Twitter, saying, “The observed change in Apogee is from 78,276 km to 118,642 km.” The spacecraft will continue to work its way from Earth's gravity and will then piggyback on Mars' gravitational pull.
According to the ISRO: "When spacecraft reaches nearest point of Mars (Peri-apsis), it is maneuvered into an elliptical orbit around Mars by firing the Liquid Engine. The spacecraft then moves around Mars in an orbit with Peri-apsis of 366 km (227 miles) and Apo-apsis of about 80,000 km (49,710 miles)."
The Mars orbiter is on track to reach Mars in 2014. The mission is an ambitious but cost-effective one, with a budget of $73 million, that is attempting to orbit around Mars with a minimal amount of fuel. As the AFP notes for comparison, NASA’s upcoming MAVEN Mars probe costs $455 million.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission had hit a snag on Monday as it failed its fourth orbit-raising maneuver.
As reported by the Agence France-Presse, MOM was successfully launched on Nov. 5, but the PSLV-C25 rocket did not have enough power to send the spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft is was left orbiting around the planet, and ISRO is conducting a series of operations to raise the spacecraft away from Earth’s surface.
Monday’s maneuver was expected to raise the spacecraft’s altitude to 1,000 kilometers, or 62,137 miles, above Earth’s surface, but a brief engine failure prevented that, raising the spacecraft only from 71,623 km, or 44,504 miles, to 78,276 km, or 48,638 miles.
The ISRO had said in a statement, “When both primary and redundant coils were energized together, as one of the planned modes, the flow to the Liquid Engine stopped. The thrust level augmentation logic, as expected, came in and the operation continued using the attitude control thrusters.” After the engine failure, the spacecraft’s autopilot was engaged.