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In a first for an Indian spacecraft, Mars orbiter now in interplanetary space

T.S. Subramanian
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India’s spacecraft to Mars is now coasting in the interplanetary space.

In its epic voyage towards the Red Planet, it broke out of the Sphere of Influence (SOI) of the Earth at 1.14 a.m. on Wednesday, traversing beyond 9.25 lakh km. Chandrayaan-1 had travelled up to four lakh km.

Sun-centric orbit

The Mars orbiter crossed the SOI, 72 hours after it was cannoned out of its Earth-bound orbit on Sunday. It is now in a proper Sun-centric orbit.

Deviprasad Karnik, spokesperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said: “The spacecraft is well and truly on its way to Mars. This is the first time that an Indian spacecraft has crossed this distance of 9.25 lakh km. It is in interplanetary space now.” It was coasting, coming under the influence of the Sun and other planets. “The Earth is no longer pulling it.”

The spacecraft will now coast around the Sun for about 300 days. This helio-centric flight will total 68-crore km before it has its rendezvous with Mars on September 24, 2014.

Around 00.49 hours on Sunday (December 1), ISRO fired the spacecraft’s propulsion system for 23 minutes. As the operation ended, the craft was catapulted out of its Earth-bound orbit towards the Sun-centric phase.

In the interplanetary space, ISRO will correct the spacecraft’s trajectory three or four times before firing the propulsion system again on September 24, 2014, to insert the craft into the Martian orbit with a periapsis of 376 km and an apoapsis of 80,000 km.

If the insertion is successful, ISRO will turn on the five scientific instruments onboard.

It is now in Sun-centric orbit


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