The mobile service tower which protects the PSLV C 25 rocket from the elements was partially withdrawn Monday as the countdown progressed towards 14:38 hours on Tuesday, when India's first inter-planetary space mission will be launched.
The 44.4-metre tall trusted workhorse of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) stood on its launchpad as its tanks were filled with fuel that will power the rocket over its four stages into space to insert the spacecraft into an Earth orbit. Final destination: Mars, the Red Planet, 400 million km and 300 days' journey away.
The actual launch operations on Tuesday will only involve about 43 minutes of rocket flight. But it is still set to be the longest initial flight for any launch in ISRO's history.
"If the rocket has to function and the vehicle is able to put the satellite into an orbit of 23,500 km-by-250 km, that is sufficient. There is a band 675 km plus or minus this number. Anywhere within that if it is put, it is a success," ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said of the expectations for the initial flight — the first step in the long journey to Mars.
If all goes well on Tuesday, the next major test for the mission will come on November 30, when the spacecraft is scheduled to begin its journey to Mars: The trans Martian injection. And then again in September 2014, when it will inject the Mars orbiter into the Mars orbit.
The launch will involve 23 minutes of flight when the rocket will be visible to ISRO through its own ground station at Biak near Indonesia. The subsequent operations, during which the rocket will disengage the spacecraft and place it in a Earth orbit, will be tracked by special ship-borne terminals: Nalanda and Yamuna in the South Pacific Ocean.
The specific operations that the ship-borne terminals will monitor are the ignition of the fourth stage of the rocket at 33 minutes, and the separation of the satellite from the rocket at around 43 minutes. After the initial 23 minutes, the