Weather willing, October 28 will be D-day for the country’s long space leap, the Rs. 450-crore Mars orbiter mission, from ISRO’s Sriharikota launch port in coastal Andhra Pradesh.

However, the date will be formally fixed on October 18 after readiness reviews across the launch centre, half-a-dozen international ground stations, tracking hub ISTRAC, and the Indian Deep Space Network in Bangalore, ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu on Tuesday. The space agency also has to reckon with the readiness of the two ship-carrying-terminals that it has deployed in the South Pacific, where the fourth and last stage of the launch will take place.

Besides the weather, the situation in the South Pacific is also vital. The ships must relay information on the last stage and ejection of the spacecraft into space, Dr. Radhakrishnan added. “Weather is certainly a factor which we have to keep in mind, not only here but also in the South Pacific, as well as the condition of the ships,” he said in an interaction ahead of the launch.

ISRO’s weather assessment gives it a 10-day clear time within the overall period of October 28–November 19. By then, the orbiter must be put in space. While Phaillin, has muted the danger, “There is now a system moving in the South Pacific and we have to monitor it. These are part of our operational challenges,” he said. On Tuesday, mission operations at the ground stations were reviewed at the nerve centres in Bangalore, namely ISTRAC (ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network) and its space watch post, the Indian Deep Space Network.

ISRO moved the spacecraft from Bangalore to Sriharikota on October 3 and put it through tests. The four stages of its launcher, the PSLV-C25 in the modified XL version, have been put together.

The mission readiness review team and the Launch Authorisation Board are due to meet on October 17. The spacecraft will be put on the launcher on October 18 and another round of readiness checks will be done on the combined entity.

“After that, the Launch Authorisation Board will monitor the weather conditions and authorise the countdown and the process will begin.”

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