ISRO invites foreign ‘riders’ to Venus

A file photo of scientists monitoring the Mars Orbiter Mission.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

An 18-month-old pitch for what could be the first Indian orbiter mission to Venus has just been refreshed and relaunched, opening it up now for international experiments.

Tentatively marking the yet to be named ‘Mission Venus’ for mid-2023, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to study the planet from an elliptical orbit that is closest to Venus at 500 km and 60,000 km at the farthest end — similar to its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of 2013.

The latest announcement opportunity (AO) does not specify the weight of the spacecraft; it plans to send up instruments or payloads totally weighing 100 kg. (MOM’s payloads weighed nearly 15 kg.)

The new round invites space-based experiment ideas on Venus from space agencies, universities and researchers.

They should complement a dozen Indian experiments that have been shortlisted from among responses that came in for the AO of April 2017. It had then planned a total payload of 175 kg. The responses were said to be fewer and below expectations.

3rd interplanetary dash

Currently being handled by the Space Science Programme Office, the entire project must be vetted by the Advisory Committee on Space Sciences and approved by the Space Commission and eventually the government.

From the Moon orbiter mission Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and the ₹450 crore MOM, the Venus voyage — if approved — would be ISRO’s third interplanetary dash.

A lunar lander and rover mission called Chandrayaan-2 is getting ready to take off in January or February 2019.

ISRO says that it may lower the orbit of its future Venus spacecraft after a while for sharper observations. According to an informed ISRO official, the Venus mission would be comparable to the phenomenally popular MOM in terms of its the orbit and the cost.

The official said the plan was in very early stages and would get finely defined once the experiments were chosen. They would decide the weight of the spacecraft and the rocket that it would need.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 11:21:04 PM |

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