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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) - Cheapest Expedition to Mars in human history


ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation founded by Vikram Sarabhai almost 45 years ago on 15 August 1969 with a primary objective to advance space technology and use its applications for national benefit for India and rest of the world. This day 24th Sep'14 shall always be remembered in history as moment for India to be first nation who sent Mars orbiter which successfully entered in its orbit in first attempt. This is a huge success for all Indian. A major boost in DEEP SPACE EXPLORATION.
The Indian Mars Mission 

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), known as 'Mangalayaan' was launched into Earth orbit on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and has entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014 at a record cost of $67 million which is less than Rs5 per person of India's total population and is cheaper than overall budget of Hollywood movie -  GRAVITY. This gives India a clear edges over its Asian neigbours.

On 24th Mar 2015 - India MOM completes 6 months in Martian orbit and all the equipments are working normally which would make this mission last much longer than anticipated.

Getting to know about MOM
MOM was successfully placed into Red-Planet's orbit on september 24 8:23 AM IST.The spacecraft had a lift-off mass of 1,350 kilograms and 15 kg of scientific instruments as payload and planned to be put into a highly elliptical orbit around Mars. Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft and mission is primarily technological mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other bus systems of spacecraft.
The framework of MOM

If you look at ISRO's objectives , its broken down into two key aspects:

A. Technological Objectives:
Design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion / capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.
Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management.
Incorporate autonomous features to handle contingency situations.

B. Scientific Objectives:
Exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.

Scientists working on the mission | Photographs - AP

Build & Quality

The payload for MOM has key guests who shall be providing important information of Martian planet.

  • Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP) - to measure Deuterium & Hydrogen which in turn help understanding loss of water from planet.
  • Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) - to measure Methan on MArtian atmosphere
  • Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) - to measure neutral composition
  • Mars Color Camera (MCC) - to capture images and information about the surface features and composition of Martian surface
  • Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS) - to measure thermal emission to map surface composition and mineralogy of Mars

For more details visit: 

The technical specification are in below brochure : 

Some of the Mission Critical Challenges (Courtesy : ISRO/Wikipedia)

Thermal Environment
The bus needs to cope with a wide range of thermal environment, from Near Earth conditions with Sun and Earth contributions (hot case) to Mars conditions where eventually eclipses and reduced solar flux give rise to cold case issues. 

Radiation Environment
The main frame bus elements and payloads are basically designed for interplanetary missions capable of operating in Earth Burn Manoeuvres (EBN), Mars Transfer Trajectory (MTT) and Martian Orbit (MO) environments.

Communication Systems
The communication systems for the Mars mission are responsible for the challenging task of communication management up to a distance of 400 million km. It consists of Telemetry, Tracking and Commanding (TTC) systems and Data transmission systems in S-band and a Delta Differential One-way Ranging (Δ-DOR) Transmitter for ranging. 

The TTC system comprises of coherent TTC Transponders, TWTAs (Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers), a near omni coverage antenna system, a High Gain Antenna system, Medium Gain Antenna and corresponding feed networks. 

The High Gain Antenna system is based on a single 2.2 meter reflector illuminated by a feed at S-band. 

Power System
One of the major challenges in the design of power system is due to the larger distance of the satellite from the Sun. The power generation in Mars orbit is reduced to nearly 50% to 35% compared to Earth’s orbit. 

The power bus configuration comprises of a single wing of solar array with 7.56 m2 area generating about 840 W during sunlit and normal incidence in Martian orbit, and a 36 Ampere-Hour Lithium-Ion battery supports the power load during launch phase, initial attitude acquisition, eclipse, Earth burns, MOI, safe mode and data transmission phases. 

Propulsion System
Propulsion System consists of one 440N Liquid Engine and 8 numbers of 22N thrusters. The propellant tanks have combined storage capacity up to 852 kg propellant. The 22N thrusters are used for attitude control during the various activities of the mission like, orbit raising using liquid engine, attitude maintenance, Martian orbit maintenance (if any) and momentum dumping. 

As the critical operation of Martian Orbit Insertion with Liquid Engine burn occurs after 10 months of launch, suitable isolation techniques are adopted to prevent fuel/ oxidiser migration issues. 
First Pictures from MOM

On-board Autonomy

Given that the Round-trip Light Time (RLT) from Earth to Mars can vary anywhere between 6 to 43 minutes, it would be impractical to micromanage a mission from Earth. Due to this communications delay, mission support personnel on Earth cannot easily monitor and control all the spacecraft systems in real-time basis. Therefore, the configuration includes the use of on-board autonomy to automatically manage both the nominal and non-nominal scenarios on-board the spacecraft. 

Cheat Sheet

  1. A tiring but an ambitious journey of 300 days and 420 million miles, cheapest interplanetary mission ever to be undertaken by the world” 
  2. Though Indian Space Research Organisation – is a late entrant to the space race, and the success of Mangalyaan makes the country an Asian leader in space exploration, is national pride.
  3. While some think that in India, still large population lives below poverty line however India’s weather satellites helped reduce the number of deaths during cyclone Phailin last year is classic example of such exploration which costed India only Rs 5 per person on population scale.
  4. India is fortunate in having a long and diverse history of campaigning science movements that have sought to draw both on indigenous knowledge traditions and direct modern scientific research towards progress in health, literacy, environment, nutrition and sanitation which is vital for next generation Young Indians.
  5. Mangalyaan and NASA's MAVEN join two other NASA orbiters, Europe's Mars Express orbiter and two NASA rovers currently exploring Mars.
    The Cheat Sheet
  6. Two-thirds of the craft's parts were made by Indian companies such as Larsen & Toubro and Godrej & Boyce.
  7. Both the United States and Russia lost their first Mars probes. Europe's first Mars mission, the multinational Mars Express, did enter orbit in December 2003, although a companion British-built lander was destroyed during its descent to the surface.
  8. NASA duly tipped its hat. "We congratulate the Indian Space Research Organisation for its successful arrival at Mars with the Mars Orbiter Mission," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
  9. The expected life of the craft is six months, after which it will run out of fuel and be unable to maintain its orbit.
  10. The project had cost less than "Gravity", whose budget the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) estimates at $100 million.
The live updates on the mission can be found here

General Observation & Verdict
Indeed its one of the most sought out achievement for India, and western world for surely attribut it to people costs which are less, and the scientists and engineers working on any space mission are always the largest part of the ticket price. One of the important aspect is how India's home-grown components and technologies have also been prioritised over expensive foreign imports. But its the zeal of each each Indian had carefully made things work simply. Kudos to all. 

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