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India loses contact with Mars orbiter

Credit: NASA

Edinburgh, 11 October 2022. – The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) reported that its ground stations have lost communication with its Mars orbiter spacecraft, Mangalyaan (MOM). MOM may have run out of propellant or battery power but it is also possible that an automated maneuver cut communications.

ISRO declared the spacecraft non-recoverable, meaning that the eight-year mission has reached the end of its operational life. Originally, MOM’s operational life expectancy was only six to 10 months. The spacecraft was launched in November 2013 entering orbit around Mars 10 months later.

MOM carries a 1.4 x 1.8-meter solar array wing capable of generating 800 watts of power charging a lithium-ion battery. The spacecraft has recently encountered a series of eclipses that could have drained the battery completely. In addition, it might have also run out of the 852 kg of fuel to powering its thrusters.

The communication breakdown may be a result of MOM’s Earth-facing antenna simply pointing away from the planet. ISRO said whatever the cause was, it was certain that the spacecraft is not going to recover.

The aim of India’s first interplanetary mission was to test interplanetary exploration technology. It also wanted to utilize the instruments to study the Martian surface and atmosphere.

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