Mars Orbiter Makes Successful Course Correction

Aug 30, 2005
Mars Orbiter to Launch Aug. 11

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) successfully tested its main engines by making a successful trajectory adjustment for reaching the red planet on March 10, 2006.

The spacecraft fired all six main thrusters for 15 seconds on Saturday. The engine burn followed a 30-second burn of six smaller thrusters, which settled propellant in the craft’s fuel tank for smoother flow. The spacecraft’s orientation was adjusted prior to the burns to point the engines in the proper direction for the maneuver. The MRO returned to the regular cruise-phase attitude after the trajectory adjustment.

“This maneuver accomplished two goals at once,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Deputy Mission Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. “It adjusted our trajectory toward our Mars target point, and it gave us a valuable checkout of the orbit-insertion engines.” The target point is 395 kilometers (245 miles) above the surface of Mars.

Initial analysis of navigational data indicates this first flight path correction successfully changed the spacecraft’s velocity by the intended 7.8 meters per second (17.4 mph). MRO's velocity relative to the sun is 32,856 meters per second (73,497 mph).

The six main engines won't be used again until the craft arrives at Mars. The next burn will last about 25 minutes. It will slow the MRO enough for the planet’s gravity to capture the spacecraft into orbit. Each main engine produces approximately 38 pounds of thrust. The three remaining opportunities scheduled for fine-tuning the trajectory before March will use smaller engines. Each smaller engine produces approximately five pounds of thrust.

“We intentionally designed the initial trajectory after launch with a bias in it, so this first correction maneuver would be large enough to let us use the main engines,” Johnston said.

The next milestone for the MRO mission is today. MRO will turn on its instruments to check their condition. The spacecraft was launched Aug. 12, and it is in excellent health. MRO has traveled approximately 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) since launch. It has 95.9 million kilometers (59.6 million miles) still to fly before reaching Mars.

The MRO mission will examine Mars in unprecedented detail from low orbit. Mission science objectives include studying water distribution, including ice, vapor or liquid; geologic features and minerals. It will also support future missions to Mars by examining potential landing sites and by providing a relay for communications back to Earth.

Source: NASA

Explore further: A solar eclipse sheds light on physics

Related Stories

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Mars weather camera helps find new crater on red planet

May 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance ...

NASA Mars spacecraft reveals a more dynamic red planet

Dec 10, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed to scientists slender dark markings—possibly due to salty water - that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly close to the Martian equator.

Recommended for you

Image: Europa's Jupiter-facing hemisphere

1 hour ago

This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter's moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo ...

A bubbly cosmic celebration

1 hour ago

In the brightest region of the nebula RCW 34, gas is heated and expands through the surrounding cooler gas. Once the heated hydrogen reaches the borders of the gas cloud, it bursts outwards into the vacuum ...

Image: XMM-Newton self-portraits with planet Earth

1 hour ago

This series of images was taken 15 years ago, a couple of months after the launch of ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory. These unique views, showing parts of the spacecraft main body and solar wings, feature ...

SpaceX cleared for US military launches

2 hours ago

The US Air Force has certified private company SpaceX to launch military satellites, opening the doors to a lucrative market previously held solely by a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.