Project Review of the Mars Orbiter Mission

1909 words (8 pages) Essay in Engineering

18/05/20 Engineering Reference this

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Introduction

The Mars Orbiter Mission(MOM) also known as Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars is India’s maiden mission to Mars. It was successfully launched on November 5, 2013, by Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO). After 298 days of travel, the spacecraft entered the Martian orbit successfully on 24 September 2014. For several countries which have reached Mars or tried to reach Mars, the entry into the orbit of Mars has been a challenge for them. India is currently the only country in the world that succeeded in reaching the Mars orbit in the very first attempt. Also, ISRO became fourth space agency in the world to successfully reach Mars after the Soviet Space Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) and European Space Agency(ESA). Moreover, it is the least expensive Mars project to date, with a cost of around $ 73 million. The cost is almost one-tenth of a similar project carried out by NASA named Maven during the same period.

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This mission is a “technology demonstrator” project which is intended to explore the Martian atmosphere and to understand the technology required for future interplanetary missions. The MOM probe contains 5 scientific instruments that are monitored by Tracking and Command Network at ISRO(ISTRAC), Spacecraft Control Centre(SCC) and Indian Deep Space Network(IDSN) which is very helpful for gaining data about Mars. The probe is powered by solar energy that is generated by 3 solar panels installed on its surface.

Figure 1 Timeline and trajectory of Mars Mission(Source: ISRO)

According to ISRO, the scientific objective of MOM was “ Exploration of Mars atmosphere, mineralogy, and morphology by indigenous scientific instruments”. The secondary objective was to develop the technology required for the operation of an interplanetary mission required for the following task:

  • Design of Mars orbiter with the cruise phase of 300 days, to capture Mars data and send back to ISRO for analysis.
  • Autonomous features to handle contingency situations.
  • To study the atmosphere of Mars which include Carbon dioxide and methane by using remote sensing technique.

India’s mission is an indigenous effort and has been designed with a restricted mandate. The basic problem for ISRO while designing this project was unavailability of a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Currently, India’s launching capability is limited because the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle(GSLV) was not in operating condition. So, for the MOM project, India was forced to design a project with very limited payload as the only option available was Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV) which was of lower capacity compared to GSLV. As a result, only five scientific instruments were fitted on MOM which restricted the capability of the mission. Also, Mangalyaan had to use Hohmann Transfer Orbit which is the shortest distance between Earth and Mars and this happens once in 26 months which would result in less conservation of fuel. This meant that the project was already under a strict schedule. So, there were many setbacks for the project during planning as well as execution phase but that problems were very well dealt with proper coordination between different departments of the project. This project is considered as one of the best achievements in the history of India. The main focus area of this post-project review is Cost management, Time management, and Stakeholder Management.

Highlight of the project

Table 1 Highlight of Mangalyaan project(Reference)

Client

ISRO

Manufacturer

ISRO Satellite Centre

Project start date

23/05/2012

Project duration

18 months

Spacecraft Launch date

05/11/2013

Launch site

Satish Dhawan Launch site

Cost

$ 73 Million

Cost management:

When the project was planned, the initial announcement was made that the approved budget for the project is just $73 Million. Thus, the mission already had financial constraint which limited the scope of the project. To meet this constraint, the main focus of ISRO was to decrease the payload on the spacecraft as it would result in less fuel consumption. As far as cost management is concerned, the final cost of project was approximately $73 Million which means project was delivered under budget. There are many factors which are responsible for MOM project being low on cost. The key factor responsible for low cost of project is the decision by the project team to use PSLV instead of any other launching vehicle. Otherwise, the construction of a new launch vehicle would have cost a huge amount of money. Moreover, decision of manufacturing all parts and equipment of spacecraft by Indian companies also resulted in huge cost savings in terms of reducing transportation cost. Furthermore, the average age of engineers engaged in Mangalyaan project was just 27 which reduced the overall manpower cost. Also, ISRO was highly appreciated by the other agencies around the world for low cost of the project. Overall, as far as cost management is concerned, this project is successful in that aspect as the project was delivered under budget and with proper planning this project was also delivered on time. It is very essential for a project to be delivered on time as it would have increased the cost of the project. Hence, it can be said that cost and time management are interconnected and heavily dependent on each other and this is true in most of the management areas.

Time management:

When the project commenced in May 2012, 18 months project duration was decided. The ultimate goal of that deadline was due to Hohmann Transfer Orbit which occurs once in 26 months which would enable spacecraft to travel minimum distance for reaching Mars. Also, 15 days of contingency allowance was kept for uncertain events which proved to be very essential during the launching stage of the spacecraft. The construction of spacecraft was completed in a short time of just 15 months without any complications. Also, during the launch it was necessary to have constant communication with Mangalyaan. For this purpose, 32 ground support stations were set up across the world but once the spacecraft is over the Pacific Ocean, no ground support was there to keep a track of the progress. So, project team decided to positioned two ships in Pacific Ocean with antenna to track spacecraft. Now, spacecraft was ready to be launched on 27th October 2013 but the ships weren’t in the position due to poor weather in Pacific Ocean. Once the ships reached at a pre-determined location, spacecraft was successfully launched on 5th November 2013. So, decision of keeping 15 days of contingency allowance proved to be extremely vital in the end. So, proper planning and management with using risk assessments and other consideration of uncertain events in the planning phase have helped to complete this project as per schedule. Furthermore, the engineers and scientist started working for longer shift up to 16 hours a day to meet with the deadline of the project.  To conclude, when it comes to time management, this project is successful as it was completed within schedule and all the objectives were achieved. 

Stakeholder Management:

Many agencies from the world were interconnected to the success of India’s Mangalyaan project. The success of the project was highly dependent on the way the agencies operated. The stakeholders involved in the project and their role in the Mangalyaan project is described below:

  1. Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO): The Indian Space Research organization, is Indian government space organization was the most essential partner in the Mangalyaan project. The ISRO was fundamentally responsible for planning, designing and launching of the spacecraft. Also, this was ISRO’s first interplanetary mission to Mars. While ISRO was the main stakeholder in the project, it needed vital support from government and private agencies to complete this project.
  2. Government of India: The government of India invested around $73 Million in this project and also provided other ground support to the project. This amount was considerably low for this kind of project but it gives us an indication of cost efficiency ISRO has provided to government.
  3. Private sector Firms: Given the budget allotted to this project, it was logical that Public Private Partnership model was adopted for this project. The ISRO decided to transfer technology to the native manufacturers who built components as per specification provided by ISRO. Overall, a total of 130 firms were involved in this project out of which Larsen & Toubro and Godrej Aerospace were the major stakeholder in this project. The Larsen & Toubro manufactured the motor casings and antennas for this project while Godrej Aerospace built liquid engine used in PSLV and critical components for orbiter thruster.
  4. National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA): In October 2013, NASA announced that communication and navigation support will be provided by NASA to Mangalyaan. While NASA was not engaged in the construction of the Mangalyaan, but their support provided position data to the ISRO which  proved to be essential.

Apart from these, the South African National Space Agency, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre and Space Application Centre also provided valuable contribution to the project.

As far as stakeholder management is concerned, there were lot of stakeholders involved with this project and this project would have not been completed without their support. So, ISRO’s project team effectively managed all stakeholder and delivered an outstanding result for this project. Hence, this project is considered as successful in terms of stakeholder management.

Conclusion:

To conclude, Mangalyaan was an ambitious project opening new possibilities to explore Mars.  In my opinion, this project can be considered as successful as it was delivered on time plus under budget and most importantly it was delivered without compromising the scope of the project. The priority of stakeholders was to study the Mars atmosphere and capture data which can be used as baseline for further study and this criterion was fulfilled by the project team. Also, the Mangalyaan entered Mars orbit successfully and still capturing the data from the Mars. The Mangalyaan was originally designed for 300 days but to the contrary, it is still sending data back to the earth. Also, this is one of huge achievement in the history of India. Hence, in terms of project management, it can be considered as successful project and can be used as a base for further interplanetary missions.

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