Particles and fields package integrated on upcoming Mars-bound spacecraft

Mar 14, 2013 by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft undergoes acoustics testing on Feb. 13, 2013 at Lockheed Martin Space Systems' Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory. The environmental test simulates the maximum sound and vibration levels the spacecraft will experience during launch. MAVEN is the next mission to Mars and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The six science instruments that comprise the Particles and Fields Package that will characterize the solar wind and ionosphere of Mars have been integrated aboard NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. The spacecraft is on track for launch later this year.

The Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) was the last of the six instruments to be delivered, and was integrated late last week at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colo. SWEA measures the properties of electrons at Mars, one electron at a time, and can process up to one million events per second.

The other instruments in the package had been delivered earlier. In addition to the SWEA instrument, the package includes the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA), Suprathermal and Thermal (STATIC), Solar Energetic Particle (SEP), Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW), Magnetometer (MAG), and a data-processing unit.

"The Particles and Fields Package is designed to study the solar wind interaction with Mars and the structure and dynamics of Mars' ionosphere, including the influence of Mars' strongly magnetized crust," said David L. Mitchell, SWEA instrument lead and coordinator for the full package, from the University of California, Berkeley/Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL). "The package measures solar ultraviolet flux, properties, and produced in to help us understand how the Sun influences the upper atmosphere and drives atmospheric escape."

The package was built by the University of California, Berkeley/Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) with support from the University of Colorado Boulder/Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"The final components of the science payload are coming together, so we're getting closer to being ready for launch," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from CU/LASP. "I look forward to the exciting and diverse science results that the Particles and Fields Package instruments will provide."

The MAVEN spacecraft will carry two other instrument suites. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, provided by NASA Goddard, will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions.

"We're in the home stretch now of completing the assembly and test of the spacecraft. With the full complement of Particles and Fields Package instruments now onboard the spacecraft, we are in a very good position for delivering the spacecraft to the launch site on schedule in August", said David F. Mitchell, MAVEN project manager from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

MAVEN is scheduled for launch in November, 2013. It is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and better understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. MAVEN will investigate the role that loss of Mars' atmosphere to space played in determining the history of water on the surface.

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The university provides science instruments and leads science operations, and Education and Public Outreach. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the project and provides two of the science instruments for the mission. of Littleton, Colo., built the and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory provides for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, the Deep Space Network, and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

Explore further: Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

Related Stories

Instrument delivered for NASA's upcoming Mars mission

Nov 19, 2012

(Phys.org)—A remote sensing instrument that will peer into the ultraviolet to offer clues to how Mars might have lost its atmosphere has arrived at Lockheed Martin for integration into NASA's Mars Atmosphere ...

MAVEN mission completes major milestone

Jul 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission reached a major milestone last week when it successfully completed its Mission Critical Design Review (CDR).

NASA mission asks why Mars has no atmosphere

Oct 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA this week gave the green light to a mission to Mars that will seek to understand why and how the red planet lost its atmosphere 3-4 billion years ago.

NASA selects CU-Boulder to lead $485M Mars mission

Sep 15, 2008

In the largest research contract ever awarded to the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has been selected by NASA to lead a $485 million orbiting space mission ...

Recommended for you

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

11 hours ago

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

13 hours ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

Apr 23, 2014

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

(Phys.org) —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...