Mangalyaan Back on Track Following Orbit-raising Burn

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India’s newly launched Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan, on Nov. 11 underperformed during the fourth of a planned six orbit-raising maneuvers necessary to boost the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and on its way to the red planet by Dec. 1, according to a statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

However, a “supplementary” maneuver performed Nov. 12 put Mangalyaan back on track.

Mangalyaan, a 1.3-ton orbiter launched Nov. 5 atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, successfully completed three orbit-raising maneuvers prior to a Nov. 11 attempt that was cut short by a propulsion glitch. As a result, the spacecraft picked up an additional 35-meters-per-second of velocity instead of the intended 130 meters-per-second gain and raised its apogee — the highest point of its highly elliptical orbit — some 6,600 kilometers to 78,276 kilometers, well short of the day’s 100,000-kilometer target altitude.

ISRO fired Mangalyaan’s thrusters for 303.8 seconds Nov. 12,  raising the orbiter’s apogee to 118,642 kilometers.

ISRO’s original time line called for booting Mangalyaan’s apogee to 192,000 kilometers by Dec. 1, at which time it would break free from Earth’s gravitational pull and begin its nine-month journey to Mars. 

ISRO did not say whether that timeline has been affected by the need to perform the supplementary maneuver.