Indian Mars mission hits a snag

The Mars spacecraft hasn't reached the desired velocity and altitude required to eject it towards Mars.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Updated Nov. 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM
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(UPI) -- The Indian Mars orbiter mission hit a snag Sunday when a planned engine burn failed, causing the spacecraft to fall short of its required orbit.

A problem with the Mangalyaan spacecraft's liquid fuel thruster meant that it could not reach its desired orbit of 100,000 kilometers. It would have been the fourth in a series of five engine burns required to increase the velocity of the spacecraft.

To make up for this deficit the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said they will execute an additional thruster firing early Tuesday morning.

Despite the setback, the head of the ISRO said the spacecraft remained "healthy."

The team at ISRO is hopeful that this additional maneuver will enable them to complete a fifth and final burn, bringing the spacecraft to the required altitude of 192,000 km.

The PSLV rocket used for the mission is not powerful enough to propel the spacecraft to Mars. Instead, scientists are using a Hohmann Transfer Orbit, which involves the spacecraft orbiting Earth, picking up velocity and then being ejected toward its destination.

If all goes well the spacecraft will be fired again on Dec. 1 for a 300-day journey to Mars and should be captured by Mars' gravitational pull next September.

If successful, ISRO will become the fourth space agency to reach Mars.

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