India Prepares Orbiting Mars Satellite

NEW DELHI—India plans to send a small, crewless satellite to orbit Mars in what would be its first visit to the planet.

On Friday, the Indian cabinet cleared a proposal from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for a launch in November 2013. The agency will use its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the same rocket that sent Chandrayaan-1 on a successful mission around the moon in 2008. The government has already allocated about $41 million for the Mars mission, which will cost an estimated $112 million.

The satellite will carry up to 25 kg of scientific instruments and track a highly elliptical orbit—500 km by 80,000 km—around the Red Planet. Although details are not available, ISRO officials said the mission’s goal is to remotely assess “climate, geology, and the origin, evolution, and sustainability of life on the planet.”

No word on whether there will be opportunities for international collaboration. Chandrayaan-1 carried instruments from NASA, the European Space Agency, and Bulgaria.