India's first robotic Mars probe set sail for the red planet Saturday with a vital rocket burn to catapult the spacecraft out of the realm of Earth's gravity and into interplanetary space.

Read our full story.

Indian ground controllers on Friday oversaw the fifth planned orbit-raising burn on the country's historic Mars probe, lifting its orbit to half the altitude of the moon and setting the stage for a pivotal Earth departure maneuver Nov. 30.

The Mars probe fired its liquid-fueled apogee engine at 1957 GMT (2:57 p.m. EST) for 243.5 seconds, according to an update on the Indian Space Research Organization's website.

The maneuver raised the high point, or apogee, of the spacecraft's orbit by 46,125 miles to a maximum altitude of about 119,846 miles, according to ISRO.

The orbit-raising burn already makes the Mars probe India's most distant spacecraft current in operation.

Another rocket firing will boost the spacecraft out of the grip of Earth's gravity field Nov. 30 to begin a 485-million-mile journey to Mars.

The probe's arrival in orbit around Mars is set for Sept. 24, 2014. A successful Mars orbit insertion would make ISRO the fourth space agency to put an object in orbit around the red planet, following the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.

A week into its mission, India's Mars probe overcame a bout of engine trouble Monday with an unplanned maneuver to boost its orbit after a rocket firing failed to do its job Sunday.

Read our full story.

Two more rocket burns this week have raised the altitude of India's Mars probe, which is now in an elliptical orbit with a high point more than 43,000 miles above Earth.

With three burns now behind it, the spacecraft has three more maneuvers over the next three weeks to boost itself farther from Earth and eventually escape the planet's gravitational influence.

Friday's burn, which began at 2040 GMT (3:40 p.m. EST), was supposed to raise the spacecraft's apogee from 40,186 kilometers, or 24,970 miles, to approximately 70,000 kilometers, or 43,496 miles.

A post on the mission's official Facebook page said the orbit-raising maneuver was completed successfully.

The engine burns, which all occur just after midnight in India, occur when the spacecraft is closest to Earth and traveling over Indian ground stations to monitor the progress of the maneuvers. The probe's small liquid-fueled thruster generates less than 100 pounds of thrust, but it is powerful enough accelerate the craft's speed and nudge it into a higher orbit.

The orbiter is scheduled to complete its final departure burn Nov. 30 to inject the craft on a trajectory toward Mars, where it is supposed to arrive Sept. 24, 2014.

The next two orbit-raising burns scheduled for Nov. 10 and Nov. 15, U.S. time.

India's Mars-bound spacecraft has completed the first of six major engine firings to break free of Earth's gravitational influence, according to a post on the mission's Facebook page.

The burn at 1947 GMT (2:47 p.m. EDT) raised the apogee, or high point, of the probe's orbit around Earth. Controllers planned to fire the craft's liquid-fueled engine for more than 3 minutes to raise its orbit by about 2,560 miles to an apogee of 17,861 miles, the Indian news website First Post reported.

Five more orbit-raising maneuvers are planned, with the final burn Nov. 30 programmed to send the probe out of Earth orbit and on an interplanetary cruise to Mars, ISRO officials said.

1245 GMT (7:45 a.m. EST)
India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off Tuesday with the country's first Mars mission, a low-budget project marking India's foray into an elite club of space powers.

The 146-foot-tall rocket, specifically tailored for the Mars mission, launched at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST) Tuesday from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, India's spaceport on Sriharikota Island about 50 miles north of Chennai.

The launch took place at 2:38 p.m. local time, and the PSLV's six-strap on boosters and core solid-fueled motor combined to produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to push the rocket through low-level clouds on an easterly course over the Bay of Bengal.

Read our full story.

1215 GMT (7:15 a.m. EST)
Officials report all subsystems on the Mars orbiter have been powered up and are healthy.
1005 GMT (5:05 a.m. EST)
ISRO confirms the primary and secondary deployment of the Mars orbiter's solar panels following launch.
1002 GMT (5:02 a.m. EST)
The PSLV mission director has announced the launch achieved an orbit with a low point of 246.9 kilometers and a high point of 23,566 kilometers, very close to preflight predictions.
0955 GMT (4:55 a.m. EST)
ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan has declared the PSLV placed the Mars-bound spacecraft in the precise elliptical orbit around Earth to begin its 10-month journey to the red planet.
0953 GMT (4:53 a.m. EST)
Spacecraft separation! The PSLV has released the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft.
0952 GMT (4:52 a.m. EST)
Fourth stage shutdown confirmed. Standing by for separation of the Mangalyaan spacecraft.
0948 GMT (4:48 a.m. EST)
T+plus 40 minutes. The fourth stage engines continue firing, generating nearly 3,300 pounds of thrust.
0945 GMT (4:45 a.m. EST)
Performance of the fourth stage is reported normal, and the PSLV has achieved enough velocity to reach orbit. But the fourth stage burn continues to inject the Mars-bound payload on the correct trajectory to reach the red planet.
0943 GMT (4:43 a.m. EST)
Ignition of the PSLV's liquid-fueled fourth stage confirmed. This burn of the fourth stage's two engines is expected to last 8 minutes, 39 seconds.
0941 GMT (4:41 a.m. EST)
The Nalanda tracking ship has received signals from the PSLV, restoring the data flow to controllers after a planned radio blackout.
0940 GMT (4:40 a.m. EST)
Ignition of the fourth stage is scheduled about three minutes from now. Two engines on the fourth stage will fire to inject the spacecraft into an orbit with a low point of 155 miles, a high point of 14,600 miles and an inclination of 19.2 degrees.
0933 GMT (4:33 a.m. EST)
Altitude data shows the PSLV is flying a little higher than anticipated at this point in the mission, a possible indication of overperformance from the rocket thus far.
0929 GMT (4:29 a.m. EST)
T+plus 21 minutes. As expected, the PSLV fourth stage has flown out of view of ground stations, meaning controllers are not seeing live data from the rocket for the next few minutes.

The launcher will fly over a pair of tracking ships in the Pacific Ocean during its final burn and deployment sequence.

Ignition of the fourth stage is scheduled for 0943 GMT (4:43 a.m. EST).

0925 GMT (4:25 a.m. EST)
T+plus 17 minutes. All systems remain normal during this coast phase.
0918 GMT (4:18 a.m. EST)
The PSLV's third stage has separated from the rocket's fourth stage on schedule.
0917 GMT (4:17 a.m. EST)
T+plus 9 minutes. ISRO's range operations director says ground stations will continue receiving data from the PSLV for another 15 minutes or so, followed by a communications blackout as the rocket flies out of range of ground stations in Southeast Asia.

Two tracking ships east of New Zealand are positioned to monitor ignition of the PSLV fourth stage and deployment of the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft at T+plus 44 minutes, 16 seconds.

0914 GMT (4:14 a.m. EST)
T+plus 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The PSLV's third stage has consumed its solid propellant supply, beginning a 28-minute coast phase before ignition of the fourth stage.
0912 GMT (4:12 a.m. EST)
T+plus 4 minutes, 45 seconds. The solid-fueled third stage has ignited after separation of the PSLV's second stage. This burn will last approximately 112 seconds.
0911 GMT (4:11 a.m. EST)
T+plus 3 minutes, 30 seconds. The 10.5-foot-diameter aluminum payload fairing has jettisoned now that PSLV has reached the thin upper atmosphere.

The liquid-fueled Vikas second stage engine continues firing.

0910 GMT (4:10 a.m. EST)
T+plus 2 minutes, 15 seconds. ISRO confirms separation of the PSLV first stage and ignition of the second stage for a burn of two-and-a-half minutes.
0909 GMT (4:09 a.m. EST)
T+plus 75 seconds. The six ground-lit boosters have jettisoned.
0909 GMT (4:09 a.m. EST)
T+plus 90 seconds. The six ground-lit boosters have jettisoned.
0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST)
T+plus 30 seconds. Two strap-on boosters have ignited to give the PSLV an extra boost as it climbs into the sky atop more than 2 million pounds of thrust.
0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST)
Liftoff of India's first mission to Mars!
0906 GMT (4:06 a.m. EST)
T-minus 90 seconds. In the final minute, computers will prepare the PSLV for launch by arming its solid-fueled motors.
0906 GMT (4:06 a.m. EST)
T-minus 2 minutes and counting. When the countdown reaches zero, the PSLV's first stage, comprised of five solid-fueled segments, will ignite along with four of the launch vehicle's six ground-lit strap-on boosters.

The boosters will ignite in a staggered sequence two-tenths of a second apart. Two more boosters will ignite at T+plus 25 seconds after the PSLV clears the launch pad.

0905 GMT (4:05 a.m. EST)
T-minus 3 minutes and counting. A check of the weather conditions show all parameters are acceptable for launch.
0903 GMT (4:03 a.m. EST)
T-minus 5 minutes and counting.
0854 GMT (3:54 a.m. EST)
T-minus 14 minutes and counting. The PSLV has received the final authorization to launch, and automated countdown sequence will oversee the final preparations to configure the 700,000-pound rocket for liftoff.

All systems are still "go" for launch, including two ships positioned in the South Pacific Ocean to monitor the final phase of the ascent, which occurs after a 25-minute coast phase.

0848 GMT (3:48 a.m. EST)
T-minus 20 minutes and counting. Everything is on schedule for launch at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST).

Today's launch will use the largest version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle called the PSLV XL, with six strap-on motors with a length of 12 meters, or 39 feet.

The PSLV is a four-stage rocket with a solid-fueled first and third stages and liquid-fueled second and fourth stages.

0848 GMT (3:48 a.m. EST)
T-minus 20 minutes and counting. Everything is on schedule for launch at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST).

Today's launch will use the largest version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle called the PSLV XL, with six strap-on motors with a length of 12 meters, or 39 feet.

The PSLV is a four-stage rocket with a solid-fueled first and third stages and liquid-fueled second and fourth stages.

0843 GMT (3:43 a.m. EST)
T-minus 25 minutes. Today's launch will mark the:

  • 25th PSLV launch since 1993
  • 40th Indian space launch since 1979
  • 5th PSLV XL mission since 2008
  • 3rd PSLV launch of 2013
  • 1st Indian Mars mission
  • 0838 GMT (3:38 a.m. EST)
    T-minus 30 minutes and counting. The PSLV launch team reports the Sriharikota range and all weather conditions are "go" for an on-time launch.
    0830 GMT (3:30 a.m. EST)
    We are now streaming live video from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center, where all launch preparations are on track for liftoff in 38 minutes.

    The launch pad's mobile service tower was retracted a couple of hours ago to the launch position 150 meters from the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

    Weather conditions also appear favorable at the launch site.

    You can follow the launch sequence with this

    Read our timeline.

    0130 GMT (8:30 p.m. EST Mon.)
    ISRO reports all the PSLV's systems have been switched on for the final eight-and-a-half hours of the countdown. We'll have live coverage and streaming video beginning at 0830 GMT (3:30 a.m. EST).
    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2013
    2330 GMT (6:30 p.m. EST)
    All launch preparations are on schedule for liftoff of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on Tuesday at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST).

    The first activity after the countdown began Sunday morning, Indian time, was the filling of the PSLV's liquid-fueled fourth stage with hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants.

    The fourth stage will inject the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft into an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 14,602 miles, a perigee of 155 miles and an inclination of 19.2 degrees. The twin-engine fourth stage, named the PS4 or L2.5, will fire for more than 8 minutes in the last phase of the launch.

    The mobile gantry at the launch complex, located on Sriharikota Island on India's east coast, was retracted more than 150 feet from the rocket early Monday to prepare for fueling of the PSLV's second stage with liquid propellant, which began a few hours ago.

    The PSLV's first and third stages, along with the six strap-on boosters, burn solid propellant already packed inside the motor casings.

    1730 GMT (12:30 p.m. EST)
    India's first mission to Mars, designed and fabricated in 15 months, is scheduled blast off Tuesday aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to start an interplanetary cruise to the red planet.

    The Mars Orbiter Mission is set to arrive at Mars on Sept. 24, 2014, with a make-or-break engine firing to be captured by the red planet's gravity and enter orbit.

    If successful, the mission would put India in elite company. Only the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency have successfully sent missions to Mars.

    Read our full story.