India's preparations for the launch of ambitious Rs450-crore Mars orbiter, scheduled between October and November this year, achieved a major step forward with the successful thermo-vacuum test of the spacecraft with its full payload of scientific instruments.
The Indian Space Research Organisation extensively tested the spacecraft in a simulated space environment. The spacecraft will now undergo vibration and acoustic tests before being transported from ISRO's Bangalore facility to the spaceport of Sriharikota by the end of this month, where the launch preparations have already commenced.
The spacecraft is slated to be launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25) in the 21 October-19 November window when the conditions for launch are expected to be ideal.
The first stage of the PSLV-C25 has already been assembled with its strap-ons. The rocket is ready for satellite integration by 10 October, ISRO officials said.
The Indian space agency said the primary objectives of the mission are to demonstrate India's technological capability to send a satellite to orbit around Mars and conduct meaningful experiments such as looking for signs of life, taking pictures, and studying the environment of the red planet.
The satellite will carry compact science experiments, totalling a mass of 15 kg. There will be five instruments to study the Martian surface, atmosphere and mineralogy.
After leaving earth orbit in November, the spacecraft will cruise in deep space for 10 months using its own propulsion system and will reach Mars (Martian transfer trajectory) in September 2014. The 1,350 kg spacecraft subsequently is planned to enter into a 372 km by 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars.
"We want to look at environment of Mars for various elements like Deuterium-Hydrogen ratio. We also want to look at other constituents-neutral constituents," ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said recently.
"Our (Mars mission) experiments are planned in such a way that you can decide when you want to put on each of these systems," he had said. "If we succeed (in the mission), it positions India into group of countries who will have the ability to look at Mars."
"In future, certainly, there will be synergy between various countries in such exploration. That's taking place. That time India will be a country to be counted," he added.