Astronomy & Space

MAVEN’s orbit lowered to help Mars 2020 knowledge relay – Astronomy Now

February 18, 2019 • By
NASA is utilizing aerobraking to decrease the orbit of the company’s MAVEN Mars orbiter to help knowledge relay operations with the upcoming Mars 2020 rover. Picture: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Kel Elkins and Dan Gallagher

NASA’s long-lived Alternative Mars rover could have given up the ghost, however the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover continues to be plugging away and NASA is urgent forward with plans to launch a twin rover, with a unique suite of devices, in 2020.

To assist deliver knowledge down from the Mars 2020 rover, NASA’s MAVEN satellite tv for pc is repeatedly dipping into the crimson planet’s higher ambiance, utilizing a method referred to as aerobraking to decrease the high-side of its elliptical orbit with out consuming treasured propellant.

Going into the aerobraking marketing campaign, MAVEN’s orbit had a excessive level of 6,200 kilometres, a low-point of 150 kilometres (3,850 miles by 78 miles) and an orbital interval of 4.5 hours. When the orbital adjustment is full in Might, the low level will stay the identical however the excessive level will probably be diminished to about 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles), leading to a 3.5-hour interval.

“The MAVEN spacecraft has done a phenomenal job teaching us how Mars lost its atmosphere and providing other important scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian climate,” Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, stated in a NASA assertion. “Now we’re recruiting it to help NASA communicate with our forthcoming Mars rover and its successors.”

An artist’s impression of NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft in orbit round Mars. Picture: NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle

The brand new orbit will allow extra frequent and environment friendly knowledge relay from NASA’s 2020 Mars rover, permitting the satellite tv for pc to finish 6.eight orbits per Earth day as an alternative of 5.3.

“It’s like using your cell phone,” stated Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator. “The closer you are to a cell tower, the stronger the signal.”

Outfitted with devices to check the martian ambiance, MAVEN was launched in 2013 and arrived at Mars in September 2014. It was designed for a two-year mission, however the spacecraft stays in good well being and has sufficient propellant left to function for one more 10 years. It’s outfitted with an ultra-high-frequency radio that permits it to relay knowledge from rovers or landers again to Earth.

Whereas the brand new orbit will facilitate knowledge relay operations, Jakosky stated MAVEN will proceed finding out the construction and composition of the higher ambiance.

“We’re planning a vigorous science mission far into the future,” he stated.