India’s Mars orbiter satellite, which has been on an arduous nine-month-long journey to the Red Planet, cleared a crucial test. The main rocket engine of the satellite, which has been lying dormant for this extended period, was successfully test-fired.
The Indian Space Research organisation or ISRO confirmed that the engine had a “perfect burn’ and the trajectory has also been corrected. Now all systems are set for the big event on September 24, the day Mangalyaan is set to enter the Martian orbit.
Launched on November 5 last year, Mangalyaan has been successfully braving the rough weather in space. The satellite carries one large rocket motor and eight smaller thrusters.
ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan had earlier said, “We have done a lot of ground simulations and hope that the four-second test will slow the satellite down and correct its trajectory as well in a two-in-one operation”.
The big rocket motor on board Mangalyaan had performed flawlessly in over two dozen earlier missions since 1992, and scientists were confident that this time too, things would go as per the plan.
“All commands have been uploaded and the satellite will perform the tasks automatically,” Mission controller B N Ramakrishna had said.
There were two parallel circuits to start up the larger rocket motor; ISRO had used these two paths sequentially as part of plan A and plan B. In case the trial had failed, the engineers even had a Plan C to fall back on; they would have used the tiny thrusters to slow down the satellite and still try to reach an orbit of Mars.
The Mangalyaan is laced with eight small rockets and one big rocket. The bigger one had been on an extended slumber, one comparable to that of the sleeping demon ‘Kumbhakaran’. But now, it has been ‘woken up’ for a few seconds in a risky, but successful, operation by the ISRO.