A long duration eclipse, scheduled to occur in January 2017, could cripple ISRO’s Mangalyaan mission if a timely course correction is not initiated, said ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar while addressing students at Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) on Wednesday.
“While this mission was meant to last for six months, this September 24 we will be completing two years and we still have enough fuel for the five payloads working on it to last many more years. We have one activity, which we will be doing in January of next year, when the long duration eclipse period could cripple the satellite if no corrections are done,” said Kiran Kumar while delivering a lecture on “Space Technology — Contribution to India’s Development”.
“The batteries on the satellite cannot support long duration eclipse and we are going to change the trajectory of the satellite so that the eclipse duration comes down. And once that is done the satellite can last many more years and we can study multiple seasons and activities on Mars,” he added.
The eclipse of Mars is expected to happen in the first half of January will last 7-8 hours. By changing the trajectory, ISRO expects to cut down the duration of the eclipse by half.
Though Mangalyaan is close to spending two years in the Martian orbit, it still contains about 30 kilograms of fuel, the ISRO chief said. The Mars Orbiter Mission was launched in November 5, 2013 from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. After a 298-day transit it was inserted into the Mars’ orbit on September 24, 2014 from where it has been busy clicking pictures and collected data of the Martian atmosphere.
The MOM has already functioned a couple of very crucial maneuver which included changing the orbit on October 2014, when Comet Siding Spring flew past the red planet. Similarly, a 15-day communication black out occurred in June 2015, when the MoM went behind the Sun and remained incommunicado.
According to KIran Kumar, ISRO would be launching a geostationary weather satellite INSAT-3DR in a month’s time. He said that India currently has about 34 satellites providing communication data. “We need many more. We need to practically double it by 2020,” Kiran Kumar later told mediapersons.