Swapping motion-sensing units

August 13, 2013 by Guy Webster, NASA
This artist's concept of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL

(Phys.org) —NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is switching from one motion-sensing device to a duplicate unit onboard.

The veteran orbiter relies on this inertial measurement unit (IMU) for information about changes in orientation. This information is important for maintaining spacecraft attitude and for pointing the orbiter's large antenna and science-observation instruments.

The spacecraft has two identical copies of this motion-sensing device, called IMU-1 and IMU-2. Either of them can be used with either of the spacecraft's redundant main computers. Each contains three gyroscopes and three .

"The reason we're doing this is that one of the on IMU-1 is approaching its end of life, so we want to swap to our redundant unit early enough that we still have some useful life preserved in the first unit," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Manager Reid Thomas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The orbiter began investigating Mars in 2006. Since completing its primary science phase in 2008, it has continued to work as an extended mission.

The swap has been planned for this week, with procedures expected to take less than two days before the orbiter resumes its normal functions of from orbit and communication relay for Mars rovers.

"To make sure we have a smooth transition, regaining attitude knowledge as quickly as possible, we will power off all instruments, do the IMU swap, maneuver to sun point, do the IMU swap, and then put the spacecraft into safe mode," Thomas said. "The process re-initializes the spacecraft's knowledge of its attitude."

IMU-2 has been used previously, but IMU-1 has been used much more. After the swap, IMU-1 will remain available if needed for short periods.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided more data about Mars than all other earlier and current missions combined. It also relays to Earth information from both of NASA's active Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, sharing that function with the NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Explore further: Mars longevity champ switching computers

More information: mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/

Related Stories

Mars longevity champ switching computers

November 2, 2012

(Phys.org)—NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, already the longest-working spacecraft ever sent to Mars, will switch to some fresh, redundant equipment next week that has not been used since before launch in 2001.

Orbiter enters, then exits, standby safe mode

July 16, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter experienced about 21 hours in a reduced-activity precautionary status ending at about 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) on Thursday, July 12.

Mars Odyssey orbiter out of precautionary 'safe mode'

June 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been taken out of a protective status called safe mode. Remaining steps toward resuming all normal spacecraft activities will probably be completed by next week.

Recommended for you

Unconfirmed near-Earth objects

June 22, 2018

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are small solar system bodies whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, potentially threatening a collision. NEOs are tracers of the composition, dynamics and environmental conditions ...

HESS J1943+213 is an extreme blazar, study finds

June 21, 2018

An international group of astronomers have carried out multi-wavelength observations of HESS J1943+213 and found evidence supporting the hypothesis that this gamma-ray source is an extreme blazar. The finding is reported ...

'Red nuggets' are galactic gold for astronomers

June 21, 2018

About a decade ago, astronomers discovered a population of small, but massive galaxies called "red nuggets." A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that black holes have squelched star formation in these ...

The Rosetta stone of active galactic nuclei deciphered

June 21, 2018

A galaxy with at least one active supermassive black hole – named OJ 287 – has caused many irritations and questions in the past. The emitted radiation of this object spans a wide range – from the radio up to the highest ...

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.