India's Mars Mission Has Hiccup, Supplemental Engine Burn Planned Today – UPDATE

India's Mars Mission Has Hiccup, Supplemental Engine Burn Planned Today – UPDATE

UPDATE, November 11, 2013, 9:15 pm EST:   ISRO reports that the supplementary burn was successful and the spacecraft’s apogee is now 118,642 km.

ORIGINAL STORY, November 11, 2013, 3:23 pm EST:   India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) suffered a slight setback yesterday when the fourth of six planned engine burns did not go as planned.  The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will conduct a supplemental burn around 6:30 pm this afternoon Eastern Standard Time (EST).

MOM, also called Mangalyaan, was launched into Earth orbit on November 5, 2013.   A series of six orbit raising maneuvers were planned to raise the spacecraft’s apogee (highest point in its orbit) before sending it on its way to Mars on December 1.   The first three engine burns took place without incident, but the fourth yesterday failed to impart the needed velocity to increase the apogee from 71,623 kilometers (km) to the desired 100,000 km.  Instead, its apogee now is only 78,276 km.

ISRO plans a supplemental engine firing at 6:30 pm EST today (05:00 tomorrow, November 12, Indian Standard Time, which is 10 hours and 30 minutes ahead of EST) to compensate.

ISRO explained that the failure took place during a test in which two redundant coils in the liquid engine were activated simultaneously and somehow disrupted the flow of fuel.   Smaller attitude control thrusters were automatically activated when the spacecraft detected insufficient thrust, but they were not sufficient.   The BBC reports, however, that an unidentified expert it contacted found that explanation puzzling.

This is India’s first attempt to send a probe to Mars.  As every country that has made the journey knows, it can be a perilous trip.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.