Final MAVEN instrument integrated to spacecraft

April 3, 2013 by Nancy Neal Jones
Final MAVEN instrument integrated to spacecraft
The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument, shown here at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., before its integration onto NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: NASA/GSFC

(Phys.org) —An instrument that will measure the composition of Mars' upper atmosphere has been integrated to NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. MAVEN has a scheduled launch date of Nov. 18.

Engineers and scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. in collaboration with partners at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Battel Engineering, Scottsdale, Ariz.; and AMU Engineering, Miami, Fla. built the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) .

"The NGIMS team is delighted to provide this instrument to the MAVEN mission which will help reveal the composition and structure of the upper and contribute to our understanding of the long-term changes in the atmosphere of Mars," said Paul Mahaffy, NGIMS instrument lead from NASA Goddard. NGIMS is mounted on an articulated payload platform that can be pointed independently from the . The instrument will measure the composition of neutral and ionized gases in the as the spacecraft passes through it on each orbit and will determine the basic properties of the upper atmosphere. NGIMS will work with other MAVEN instruments as the spacecraft dips in and out of the upper atmosphere to study the rate of loss of .

The data produced by NGIMS can be used to infer . It measures the ratios of several different isotopes that are important for understanding the long-term history of the atmosphere. NGIMS can provide a basis for models of present and past atmospheric loss. Data from the instrument can improve the understanding of the history of Martian climate and if conditions on early Mars may have been conducive for supporting microbial life. "Now that we have all of the on the spacecraft, and they each have the full capability that was intended, we can look forward to getting the full science that we have planned," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "This promises to be a very exciting mission."

MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and 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.

The MAVEN spacecraft will carry two other instrument suites. The Particles and Fields Package was built by the University of California at Berkeley with support from University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) and NASA Goddard. It contains six instruments that will characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of the planet. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

"The successful delivery and integration of the NGIMS instrument onto the MAVEN spacecraft is a huge milestone for the project," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager from NASA Goddard. "We now have all elements on board as we head into a final series of environmental tests prior to shipping to Cape Canaveral in August, and launch in November."

Explore further: Particles and fields package integrated on upcoming Mars-bound spacecraft

Related Stories

Instrument delivered for NASA's upcoming Mars mission

November 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 and Volatile ...

MAVEN: Next Mars mission enters final phase before launch

September 11, 2012

NASA's Mars Atmosphere And Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission has passed a critical milestone, Key Decision Point-D or KDP-D. The project is officially authorized to transition into the next phase of the mission, which is ...

MAVEN mission completes major milestone

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

September 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 slated to launch ...

Recommended for you

Scientists investigate unidentified radio sources

September 28, 2016

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers led by Andrea Maselli of the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics of Palermo, Italy, has conducted an observational campaign of a group of unassociated radio sources with NASA's ...

The frontier fields: Where primordial galaxies lurk

September 28, 2016

In the ongoing hunt for the universe's earliest galaxies, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has wrapped up its observations for the Frontier Fields project. This ambitious project has combined the power of all three of NASA's ...

Research resolves a debate over 'killer electrons' in space

September 28, 2016

New findings by a UCLA-led international team of researchers answer a fundamental question about our space environment and will help scientists develop methods to protect valuable telecommunication and navigation satellites. ...

Kepler watched a Cepheid star boil

September 28, 2016

After four years of continuous monitoring, astronomers detected clear signs of convective cells in a giant pulsating star for the first time using the Kepler space telescope.

The ultraviolet diversity of supernovae

September 28, 2016

Supernovae, the explosive deaths of massive stars, are among the most momentous events in the cosmos because they disburse into space all of the chemical elements that were produced inside their progenitor stars, including ...

0 comments

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.