Mars Orbiter Mission

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This article is about the Indian Mars probe. For other Mars orbiters, see List of missions to Mars.
Mars Orbiter Mission
Mars Orbiter Mission - India - ArtistsConcept.jpg
Artist's rendering of the MOM orbiting Mars
Mission type Mars orbiter
Operator ISRO
COSPAR ID 2013-060A
SATCAT № 39370
Mission duration 6 months (planned)[1]
Spacecraft properties
Bus I-1K[2]
Manufacturer ISAC
Launch mass 1,337 kg (2,948 lb)[2]
Dry mass 500 kg (1,100 lb)
Payload mass 15 kg (33 lb)[3]
Dimensions 1.5-metre (4 ft 11 in) cube
Power 840 watts[2]
Start of mission
Launch date 5 November 2013, 09:08 UTC (2013-11-05UTC09:08Z)[4]
Rocket PSLV-XL C25[5]
Launch site Satish Dhawan FLP
Contractor ISRO
Orbital parameters
Reference system Areocentric
Periareon 421.7 km (262.0 mi)[6]
Apoareon 76,993.6 km (47,841.6 mi)[6]
Inclination 150.0° [6]
Period 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds[6]
Epoch Planned
Mars orbiter
Orbital insertion 24 September 2014, 02:00 UTC
MSD 50027 06:27 AMT[7]

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan ("Mars-craft", from Sanskrit: मंगल mangala, "Mars" and यान yāna, "craft, vehicle"),[8][9] is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) [10][11][12][13] It is India's first interplanetary mission[14] and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency.[15][16] It is the first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, and the first nation to do so on its first attempt.[17][18][19][20]

The Mars Orbiter Mission probe lifted-off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota Range SHAR), Andhra Pradesh, using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket C25 at 09:08 UTC (14:38 IST) on 5 November 2013.[21] The launch window was approximately 20 days long and started on 28 October 2013.[4] The MOM probe spent about a month in Earth orbit, where it made a series of seven apogee-raising orbital manoeuvres before trans-Mars injection on 30 November 2013 (UTC).[22] After a 298-day transit to Mars, it was successfully inserted into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014.

The mission is a "technology demonstrator" project to develop the technologies for design, planning, management, and operations of an interplanetary mission.[23] It carries five instruments that will help advance knowledge about Mars to achieve its secondary, scientific objective.[24] The spacecraft is currently being monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennae at Byalalu.[25]


The MOM mission concept began with a feasibility study in 2010, after the launch of lunar satellite Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. The government of India approved the project on 3 August 2012,[26] after the Indian Space Research Organisation completed INR125 crore (US$20 million) of required studies for the orbiter.[27] The total project cost may be up to INR454 crore (US$71 million).[10][28] The satellite costs INR153 crore (US$24 million) and the rest of the budget has been attributed to ground stations and relay upgrades that will be used for other ISRO projects.[29]

The space agency had planned the launch on 28 October 2013 but was postponed to 5 November 2013 following the delay in ISRO's spacecraft tracking ships to take up pre-determined positions due to poor weather in the Pacific Ocean.[4] Launch opportunities for a fuel-saving Hohmann transfer orbit occur every 26 months, in this case, 2016 and 2018.[30] The Mars Orbiter's on-orbit mission life is six-to-ten months.

Assembly of the PSLV-XL launch vehicle, designated C25, started on 5 August 2013.[31] The mounting of the five scientific instruments was completed at ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore, and the finished spacecraft was shipped to Sriharikota on 2 October 2013 for integration to the PSLV-XL launch vehicle.[31] The satellite's development was fast-tracked and completed in a record 15 months.[32] Despite the US federal government shutdown, NASA reaffirmed on 5 October 2013 it would provide communications and navigation support to the mission.[33] During a meeting in 30 September 2014, NASA and ISRO officials signed an agreement to establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars. One of the working group's objectives will be to explore potential coordinated observations and science analysis between MAVEN orbiter and MOM, as well as other current and future Mars missions.[34]


The total cost of the mission was approximately INR450 Crore (US$73 million),[35][36] making it the least-expensive Mars mission to date.[37] The low cost of the mission was ascribed by K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of ISRO, to various factors, including a "modular approach", few ground tests and long (18-20 hour) working days for scientists.[38] BBC's Jonathan Amos mentioned lower worker costs, home-grown technologies, simpler design, and significantly less complicated payload than NASA's MAVEN.[24] An opinion piece in The Hindu pointed out that the cost was equivalent to less than a single bus ride for each of India's population of 1.2 billion.[39]


The primary objective of the Mars Orbiter Mission is to showcase India's rocket launch systems, spacecraft-building and operations capabilities.[40] Specifically, the primary objective is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission, comprising the following major tasks:[23]

  • design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to perform Earth-bound maneuvres, 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.

The secondary objective is to explore Mars' surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.[40]

Spacecraft specifications[edit]

  • Mass: The lift-off mass was 1,350 kg (2,980 lb), including 852 kg (1,878 lb) of propellant.[2]
  • Bus: The spacecraft's bus is a modified I-1 K structure and propulsion hardware configuration, similar to Chandrayaan 1, India's lunar orbiter that operated from 2008 to 2009, with specific improvements and upgrades needed for a Mars mission.[40] The satellite structure is constructed of an aluminium and composite fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) sandwich construction.
  • Power: Electric power is generated by three solar array panels of 1.8 m × 1.4 m (5 ft 11 in × 4 ft 7 in) each (7.56 m2 (81.4 sq ft) total), for a maximum of 840 watts of power generation in Mars orbit. Electricity is stored in a 36 Ah Li-ion battery.[2]
  • Propulsion: A liquid fuel engine with a thrust of 440 newtons is used for orbit raising and insertion into Mars orbit. The orbiter also has eight 22-newton thrusters for attitude control.[41] Its propellant mass is 852 kg.[2]


Scientific instruments
LAP Lyman-Alpha Photometer 1.97 kg (4.3 lb)
MSM Methane Sensor for Mars 2.94 kg (6.5 lb)
MENCA Mars Exospheric Neutral
Composition Analyser
3.56 kg (7.8 lb)
TIS Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer 3.20 kg (7.1 lb)
MCC Mars Colour Camera 1.27 kg (2.8 lb)

The 15 kg (33 lb) scientific payload consists of five instruments:[3][42][43]

  • Atmospheric studies:
  • Particle environment studies:
    • Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) – is a quadrupole mass analyser capable of analysing the neutral composition of particles in the exosphere.
  • Surface imaging studies:
    • Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS) – will measure the temperature and emissivity of the Martian surface, allowing for the mapping of surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.
    • Mars Colour Camera (MCC) – will provide images in the visual spectrum, providing context for the other instruments.

Telemetry and command[edit]

Further information: Telemetry and Telecommand

The Indian Space Research Organisation Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network performed navigation and tracking operations for the launch with ground stations at Sriharikota, Port Blair, Brunei and Biak in Indonesia,[44] and after the spacecraft's apogee became more than 100,000 km, an 18 m (59 ft) and a 32 m (105 ft) diameter antenna of the Indian Deep Space Network were utilised.[45] The 18 m (59 ft) dish antenna was used for communication with the craft until April 2014, after which the larger 32 m (105 ft) antenna was used.[46] NASA's Deep Space Network is providing position data through its three stations located in Canberra, Madrid and Goldstone on the US West Coast during the non-visible period of ISRO's network.[47] The South African National Space Agency's (SANSA) Hartebeesthoek (HBK) ground station is also providing satellite tracking, telemetry and command services.[48]


Communications are handled by two 230-watt TWTAs and two coherent transponders. The antenna array consists of a low-gain antenna, a medium-gain antenna and a high-gain antenna. The high-gain antenna system is based on a single 2.2-metre (7 ft 3 in) reflector illuminated by a feed at S-band. It is used to transmit and receive the telemetry, tracking, commanding and data to and from the Indian Deep Space Network.[2]

Mission profile[edit]

Timeline of operations
Phase Date Event Detail Result Reference(s)
Geocentric phase 5 November 2013 09:08 UTC Launch Burn time: 15:35 min in 5 stages Apogee: 23,550 km (14,630 mi) [49]
6 November 2013 19:47 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre Burn time: 416 sec Apogee: 28,825 km (17,911 mi) [50]
7 November 2013 20:48 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre Burn time: 570.6 sec Apogee: 40,186 km (24,970 mi) [51][52]
8 November 2013 20:40 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre Burn time: 707 sec Apogee: 71,636 km (44,513 mi) [51][53]
10 November 2013 20:36 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre Incomplete burn Apogee: 78,276 km (48,638 mi) [54]
11 November 2013 23:33 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre
Burn time: 303.8 sec Apogee: 118,642 km (73,721 mi) [51]
15 November 2013 19:57 UTC Orbit raising manoeuvre Burn time: 243.5 sec Apogee: 192,874 km (119,846 mi) [51][55]
30 November 2013, 19:19 UTC Trans-Mars injection Burn time: 1328.89 sec Successful heliocentric insertion [56]
Heliocentric phase December 2013 – September 2014 En route to Mars – The probe travelled a distance of 780,000,000 kilometres (480,000,000 mi) in a parabolic trajectory around the Sun to reach Mars.[46] This phase plan included up to four trajectory corrections if needed. [57][58][59][60][61]
11 December 2013 01:00 UTC 1st Trajectory correction Burn time: 40.5 sec Success [51][59][60][61]
9 April 2014 2nd Trajectory correction (planned) Not required Rescheduled for 11 June 2014 [58][61][62][63][64]
11 June 2014 11:00 UTC 2nd Trajectory correction Burn time: 16 sec Success [62][65]
August 2014 3rd Trajectory correction (planned) Not required[62][66] [58][61]
22 September 2014 3rd Trajectory correction Burn time: 4 sec Success [58][61][67]
Areocentric phase 24 September 2014 Mars orbit insertion Burn time: 1388.67 sec Success [6]


As originally conceived, ISRO would have launched MOM on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV),[68] but as the GSLV failed twice in 2010 and ISRO was continuing to sort out issues with its cryogenic engine,[69] it was not advisable to wait for the new batch of rockets as that would have delayed the MOM project for at least three years.[70] ISRO opted to switch to the less-powerful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Since the PSLV was not powerful enough to place MOM on a direct-to-Mars trajectory, the spacecraft was launched into a highly elliptical Earth orbit and used its own thrusters over multiple perigee burns (to take advantage of the Oberth effect) to place itself on a trans-Mars trajectory.[68]

On 19 October 2013, ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan announced that the launch had to be postponed by a week as a result of a delay of a crucial telemetry ship reaching Fiji. The launch was rescheduled for 5 November 2013.[71] ISRO's PSLV-XL placed the satellite into Earth orbit at 09:50 UTC on 5 November 2013,[27] with a perigee of 264.1 km (164.1 mi), an apogee of 23,903.6 km (14,853.0 mi), and inclination of 19.20 degrees,[49] with both the antenna and all three sections of the solar panel arrays deployed.[72] During the first three orbit raising operations, ISRO progressively tested the spacecraft systems.[55]

The orbiter's dry mass is 500 kg (1,100 lb), and it carried 852 kg (1,878 lb) of fuel and oxidiser at launch. Its main engine, which is a derivative of the system used on India's communications satellites, uses the bipropellant combination monomethylhydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide to achieve the thrust necessary for escape velocity from Earth. It was also used to slow down the probe for Mars orbit insertion and, subsequently, for orbit corrections.

Orbit raising manoeuvres[edit]

Orbit trajectory diagram (not to scale).

Several orbit raising operations were conducted from the Spacecraft Control Centre (SCC) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Peenya, Bangalore on 6, 7, 8, 10, 12 and 16 November by using the spacecraft's on-board propulsion system and a series of perigee burns. The aim was to gradually build up the necessary escape velocity of 11.2 km/s (7.0 mi/s) to break free from Earth's gravitational pull while minimising propellant use. The first three of the five planned orbit raising manoeuvres were completed with nominal results, while the fourth was only partially successful. However, a subsequent supplementary manoeuvre raised the orbit to the intended altitude aimed for in the original fourth manoeuvre. A total of six burns were completed while the spacecraft remained in Earth orbit, with a seventh burn conducted on 30 November to insert MOM into a heliocentric orbit for its transit to Mars.

The first orbit-raising manoeuvre was performed on 6 November 2013 at 19:47 UTC when the spacecraft's 440-newton (99 lbf) liquid engine was fired for 416 seconds. With this engine firing, the spacecraft's apogee was raised to 28,825 km (17,911 mi), with a perigee of 252 km (157 mi).[50]

The second orbit raising manoeuvre was performed on 7 November 2013 at 20:48 UTC, with a burn time of 570.6 seconds resulting in an apogee of 40,186 km (24,970 mi).[51][52]

The third orbit raising manoeuvre was performed on 8 November 2013 at 20:40 UTC, with a burn time of 707 seconds resulting in an apogee of 71,636 km (44,513 mi).[51][53]

The fourth orbit raising manoeuvre, starting at 20:36 UTC on 10 November 2013, imparted an incremental velocity of 35 m/s (110 ft/s) to the spacecraft instead of the planned 135 m/s (440 ft/s) as a result of underburn by the motor.[54][73] Because of this, the apogee was boosted to 78,276 km (48,638 mi) instead of the planned 100,000 km (62,000 mi).[54] When testing the redundancies built-in for the propulsion system, the flow to the liquid engine stopped, with consequent reduction in incremental velocity. During the fourth orbit burn, the primary and redundant coils of the solenoid flow control valve of 440 newton liquid engine and logic for thrust augmentation by the attitude control thrusters were being tested. When both primary and redundant coils were energised together during the planned modes, the flow to the liquid engine stopped. Operating both the coils simultaneously is not possible for future operations, however they could be operated independently of each other, in sequence.[55]

As a result of the fourth planned burn coming up short, an additional unscheduled burn was performed on 12 November 2013 that increased the apogee to 118,642 km (73,721 mi),[51][55] a slightly higher altitude than originally intended in the fourth manoeuvre.[51][74] The apogee was raised to 192,874 km (119,846 mi) on 15 November 2013, 19:57 UTC in the final orbit raising manoeuvre.[51][74]

Trans-Mars injection[edit]

Further information: Trans-Mars Injection
Simulated view of Mars Orbiter Mission along with (left to right) Mars, Earth, Mercury and Sun on 3 October 2014 at 17ː00 UTC. The Mars Orbiter Mission satellite is at an altitude of about 1300 miles from Mars at the time

On 30 November 2013 at 19:19 UTC, a 23-minute engine firing initiated the transfer of MOM away from Earth orbit and on heliocentric trajectory toward Mars.[75] The probe travelled a distance of 780,000,000 kilometres (480,000,000 mi) to reach Mars.[76]

Trajectory correction manoeuvres[edit]

Four trajectory corrections were originally planned, but only three were carried out.[58] The first trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM) was carried out on 11 December 2013, 01:00 UTC, by firing the 22 newtons (4.9 lbf) thrusters for a duration of 40.5 seconds.[51] As observed in April 2014, MOM is following the designed trajectory so closely that the trajectory correction manoeuvre planned in April 2014 was not required. The second trajectory correction manoeuvre was performed on 11 June 2014, at 16:30 hrs IST by firing the spacecraft's 22 newton thrusters for a duration of 16 seconds.[77] The third planned trajectory correction manoeuvre was postponed, due to the orbiter's trajectory closely matching the planned trajectory.[78] The third trajectory correction was also a deceleration test 3.9 seconds long on 22 September 2014.[67]

Mars orbit insertion[edit]

The plan was for an insertion into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014,[7][79] approximately 2 days after the arrival of NASA's MAVEN orbiter.[80] The 440N liquid apogee motor was successfully test fired at 09:00 UTC (14:30 IST) on 22 September for 3.968 seconds, about 41 hours before actual orbit insertion.[81][82][83]

On 24 September 2014, at IST 04:17:32 satellite communication changed over to the medium gain antenna. At IST 06:56:32 forward rotation started and locked the position to fire, at IST 07:14:32 an attitude control manoeuvre took place with the help of thrusters after eclipse started at IST 07:12:19 and LAM (Liquid Apogee Motor) started burning at IST 07:17:32 and ended at IST 07:41:46. After that reverse manoeuvre took place, the spacecraft successfully entered Martian orbit.[67][84][85]


The orbit insertion put MOM in a highly elliptical orbit around Mars, with a period of 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds and a periapsis of 421.7 km (262.0 mi) and apoapsis of 76,993.6 km (47,841.6 mi).[6] At the end of the orbit insertion, MOM was left with 40 kg (88 lb) of fuel as against the 20 kg (44 lb) that was thought necessary for the six-month life span.[86]

On 28 September 2014, Mars Orbiter Mission published its first global view of Mars. The image was captured by the Mars Colour Camera (MCC).[87]

On 19 October 2014, the ISRO reported that the Mars Orbiter Mission is healthy after the Comet Siding Spring flyby of Mars earlier that day.[88]


The Mars Orbiter Mission team won US-based National Space Society's 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category. NSS said the award was given as the Indian agency successfully executed a Mars mission in its first attempt; and the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis where, with its high resolution camera, it is taking full-disk color imagery of Mars. Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists.[89][90]

Follow-up mission[edit]

ISRO plans to send a follow-up mission called Mangalyaan 2 with a greater scientific payload to Mars between 2018 and 2020.[91][92] This mission will likely consist of a lander and rover, rather than being orbiter-only.[93][94]

See also[edit]


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