A handout of the European Space Agency ESA shows a visualisation of Mars, created from spacecraft imagery.Reuters

After the successful launch of India's first navigational satellite, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is readying up for the ₹450-crore Mars Orbiter mission which is expected to be launched between October and November this year. The mission is aimed at searching for possible signs of life as well as to find out why Mars lacks atmosphere.

The Mars Orbiter will be launched aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. Once the mission takes off within the launch window (21 October - 19 November), the orbiter is expected to exit the Earth's orbit in the last week of November and travel for at least 10 months before reaching Mars in September 2014.

"As per plans, the satellite is expected to exit the Earth orbit on November 26/27, travel towards Mars over around 300 days. We plan to insert the satellite in an orbit around Mars on September 22, 2014," an official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) once told The Hindu.

The Mars orbiter will be carrying a total of five payloads weighing about 14.49 kg. It will carry a methane sensor to determine the presence of methane, a sign which suggests that life once existed on the Martian soil.

The Mars Orbiter will enter into a 372 km by 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars. "The primary objective of this challenging mission is to establish the Indian technological capabilities to reach the orbit of Mars," ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan, also Secretary in the Department of Space, told the Press Trust of India. "A number of technological challenges need to be negotiated for a successful Mars mission."

The spacecraft will orbit the red planet once in every three days. It will study the surface and the minerals on Martian soil.

ISRO has made an agreement with American space agency NASA which would offer support in activities related to the Mars Orbiter Mission. "NASA is providing deep space navigation and tracking support services to this mission during the non-visible period of the Indian Deep Space Network," according to a US-India joint fact sheet.

Besides the Mars Orbiter mission, ISRO is gearing up for a series of launch missions using Geosynchronous launch vehicle (GSLV) and Polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) in the current financial year.

As part of its plans, ISRO is expected to launch G-SAT 14 communication satellite on board GSLV on 6 August to increase transponder capacity and also to make arrangements to support services like television, strategic and emergency communications. This will be followed by the launch of SPOT-7, earth observation satellite, by a PSLV this December.

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