MAVEN’s orbit lowered to assist Mars 2020 information relay – Astronomy Now
NASA is utilizing aerobraking to decrease the orbit of the company’s MAVEN Mars orbiter to assist information 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 remains to be plugging away
NASA is utilizing aerobraking to decrease the orbit of the company’s MAVEN Mars orbiter to assist information 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 remains to be plugging away and NASA is urgent forward with plans to launch a twin rover, with a special suite of devices, in 2020.
To assist carry information 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 (three,850 miles by 78 miles) and an orbital interval of four.5 hours. When the orbital adjustment is full in Might, the low level will stay the identical however the excessive level will likely be diminished to about four,500 kilometres (2,800 miles), leading to a three.5-hour interval.
“The MAVEN spacecraft has accomplished an exceptional job educating us how Mars misplaced its ambiance and offering different essential scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian local weather,” Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, mentioned in a NASA assertion. “Now we’re recruiting it to assist NASA talk 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 information 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.three.
“It’s like utilizing your cellular phone,” mentioned Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator. “The nearer you might be to a cell tower, the stronger the sign.”
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 geared up with an ultra-high-frequency radio that permits it to relay information from rovers or landers again to Earth.
Whereas the brand new orbit will facilitate information relay operations, Jakosky mentioned MAVEN will proceed learning the construction and composition of the higher ambiance.
“We’re planning a vigorous science mission far into the longer term,” he mentioned.