India Mars mission back on track after engine glitch: Scientists

This handout photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Nov 6, 2013, shows the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft blasting off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on Nov 5, 2013. India's Mars spacecr
This handout photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Nov 6, 2013, shows the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft blasting off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on Nov 5, 2013. India's Mars spacecraft was successfully raised into a higher orbit around Earth early on Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013, after a brief engine failure during an earlier attempt, the space agency said. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP / ISRO

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Mars spacecraft was "successfully" raised into a higher orbit around Earth early on Tuesday, after a brief engine failure during an earlier attempt, the space agency said.

The Mars Orbiter Mission, which blasted off on Nov 5 for a 11-month trip to the Red Planet, is being launched on its way via an unusual "slingshot" method for interplanetary journeys.

Lacking a large enough rocket to blast directly out of Earth's atmosphere and gravitational pull, the Indian spacecraft is orbiting Earth until the end of the month while building up enough velocity to break free.

On Tuesday, the spacecraft completed a fourth repositioning to take it 100,000 kilometres from Earth, after the thruster engines failed during an attempt on Monday, leading the auto-pilot to take over.

"Fourth supplementary orbit raising manoeuvre of Mars Orbiter Spacecraft... has been successfully completed," the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement.

The first three manoeuvres, which involve firing additional fuel into the rocket's engine, were successfully performed last week.

The ISRO said the brief engine failure on Monday was not a setback to the ambitious low-cost mission.

India has never before attempted interplanetary travel and more than half of all missions to Mars have ended in failure, including China's in 2011 and Japan's in 2003.

The cost of the project, at 4.5 billion rupees (S$88.7 million), is less than a sixth of the US$455 million (S$568 million) earmarked for a Mars probe by NASA which will launch later this month.

ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan has called the mission a "turning point" for India's space ambitions and one which would go on to prove its capabilities in rocket technology.