NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Shrinking its Mars Orbit to Put together for Mars 2020 Rover – Area Ref

NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Shrinking its Mars Orbit to Put together for Mars 2020 Rover – Area Ref

NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Shrinking its Mars Orbit to Put together for Mars 2020 Rover

Press Launch

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2019

NASA’s 4-year-old atmosphere-sniffing Mars Environment and Risky Evolution (MAVEN) mission is embarking on a brand new marketing campaign in the present day to tighten its orbit round Mars. The operation will cut back the very best level of the MAVEN spacecraft’s elliptical orbit from 3,850 to 2,800 miles (6,200 to 4,500 kilometers) above the floor and put together it to tackle extra accountability as a data-relay satellite tv for pc for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which launches subsequent 12 months.

“The MAVEN spacecraft has finished an exceptional job educating us how Mars misplaced its environment and offering different necessary scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian local weather,” mentioned Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “Now we’re recruiting it to assist NASA talk with our forthcoming Mars rover and its successors.”

Whereas MAVEN’s new orbit won’t be drastically shorter than its current orbit, even this small change will considerably enhance its communications capabilities. “It’s like utilizing your mobile phone,” mentioned Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the College of Colorado, Boulder. “The nearer you’re to a cell tower, the stronger your sign.”

A robust telecommunications antenna sign just isn’t the one advantage of a tighter orbit. Coming in practically 1,000 miles (about 1,500 kilometers) nearer additionally will permit the MAVEN orbiter to circle Mars extra continuously — 6.eight orbits per Earth day versus 5.Three beforehand — and thus talk with the Mars rovers extra continuously. Whereas not conducting relay communications, MAVEN will proceed to check the construction and composition of the higher environment of Mars. “We’re planning a vigorous science mission far into the longer term,” Jakosky mentioned.  

The MAVEN mission was designed to final two years in area, however the spacecraft continues to be working usually. With the mission managing its gas to final via 2030, NASA plans to make use of MAVEN’s relay functionality so long as potential. The MAVEN orbiter carries an extremely high-frequency radio transceiver — just like transceivers carried on different Mars orbiters ­­— that permits it to relay information between Earth and rovers or landers on Mars. The MAVEN spacecraft already has served sometimes as NASA’s communication liaison with the Curiosity rover.

Over the following few months, MAVEN engineers will use a navigation method referred to as aerobraking — like making use of the brakes on a automotive — to reap the benefits of the drag of the Purple Planet’s higher environment to sluggish the spacecraft down step by step, orbit by orbit. This is similar drag you’ll really feel for those who put your hand out of the window of a transferring automotive.

Primarily based on the monitoring of the spacecraft by the navigation staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado, engineers will start fastidiously decreasing the bottom a part of the spacecraft’s orbit into the Martian higher environment over the following couple of days by firing its thrusters. The spacecraft will circle Mars at this decrease altitude about 360 instances over the following 2.5 months, slowing down barely with every go via the environment. Whereas it could look like a time-consuming course of, aerobraking is probably the most environment friendly technique to change the spacecraft’s trajectory, mentioned Jakosky: “The impact is similar as if we fired our thrusters somewhat bit on each orbit, however this fashion, we use little or no gas.”

Luckily, the staff has ample expertise working the spacecraft at these decrease altitudes. On 9 earlier events all through the mission, MAVEN engineers have dipped the orbiter into the identical altitude targets for aerobraking to take measurements of the Martian environment. On account of these “deep dips” and different measurements, NASA has realized that photo voltaic wind and radiation had stripped Mars of most of its environment, altering the planet’s early local weather from heat and moist to the dry setting we see in the present day. MAVEN additionally found two new varieties of auroras on Mars and the presence of charged metallic atoms in its higher environment that inform us that a number of particles is hitting Mars that will have an effect on its local weather.

MAVEN’s principal investigator is predicated on the College of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Area Physics, Boulder. The college supplied two science devices and leads science operations, in addition to training and public outreach, for the mission. NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN mission and supplied two science devices for the mission. Lockheed Martin constructed the spacecraft and is chargeable for mission operations. The College of California at Berkeley’s Area Sciences Laboratory additionally supplied 4 science devices for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, offers navigation and Deep Area Community help, in addition to the Electra telecommunications relay {hardware} and operations.

For extra info on the MAVEN mission, go to: or

// finish //

Extra information releases and standing reviews or prime tales.

Please observe SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Fb.