New Delhi, Mar 17: After the moon mission, ISRO’s plans for Mars exploration got a shot in the arm with the government allocating the ambitious programme Rs 125 crore in the Union Budget announced on yesterday.
The budget documents state that the space agency plans to launch a Mars Orbiter as early as November next year with a 25 kg scientific payload.
ISRO got a Rs 2283 crore hike in allocation in the Union Budget, presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, over the 2011-12 revised estimates of Rs 4432 crore.
The Mars mission, which comprises putting a spacecraft in the Red Planet’s orbit to study its atmosphere, could be launched in November 2013 by ISRO’s warhorse rocket — the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The space agency had identified three launch windows — one each in 2013, 2016 and 2018.
Top ISRO officials were earlier targeting launch opportunities in 2016 and 2018, but the budget papers show that the plans have been advanced.
“We are yet to finalize the scientific experiments for the Mars Mission,” a ISRO official said.
Besides the Mars Orbiter Mission, ISRO’s Human Spaceflight programme has got Rs 60.46 crore in the budget.
The agency’s ambitious plan to put in place a regional navigation satellite system for the Indian subcontinent, on the lines of the US-operated Global Positioning System, has been allocated Rs 170 crore in the budget.
The Chandrayaan-II mission, planned for launch in 2014-15, has been allocated Rs 82.50 crore. This amount also includes some allocation for Chandrayaan-I mission.