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MAVEN Status Updates

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MAVEN Mission Status Updates

Oct. 15, 2014

Commissioning activities have gone extremely well over the few weeks since MAVEN entered Mars orbit on September 21.  Since then, we have successfully completed four engine burns to lower MAVEN’s orbit.  MAVEN now orbits Mars every 4.6 hours with a periapsis (closest distance from the Mars surface) of 175 kilometers.  All instruments are activated, and we are seeing data that represents exciting first science from the Mars upper atmosphere.  Just yesterday the science team held a telephone conference call with the media to discuss early results.

Over the past week we successfully completed five deployments of MAVEN instrument systems needed for six of the eight MAVEN instruments.  The majority of the instruments had been stowed since prior to the November 2013 launch.  With MAVEN now in Mars orbit, it was safe to fire the pyros that released appendages integral to various instruments and one protective sealing cap on the mass spectrometer.  The spacecraft and all payloads are now configured for the science phase that we have been planning for over the past decade.  

Now we turn our attention to preparing for Comet Siding Spring.  Comet Siding Spring will make its closest approach to Mars on Sunday, October 19.  The comet nucleus is predicted to get within 135,000 kilometers of Mars, about one third the distance between the Earth and Moon!  The team will take advantage of this very rare close encounter with a comet by taking science on the days leading up to and following Comet Siding Spring’s arrival, measuring its impact on Mars’ upper atmosphere.  On the day of closest approach, MAVEN will be in a protective “hunker down” mode until the comet and its gas/dust tail pass by.  Months of long-distance comet observations, analysis, and modeling indicate that MAVEN will be safe during the encounter and still be able to obtain incredible science from the event.  Following this activity, we will resume final commissioning.  Assuming all proceeds according to plan, prime science will begin on November 8. To learn more about MAVEN, visit the following websites:

http://www.nasa.gov/maven and http://lasp.colorado.edu/maven

Go MAVEN Science!

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Oct. 10, 2014

Since Mars Orbit Insertion on September 21st, things have gone extremely well with the MAVEN spacecraft and the instruments that have been activated thus far. There have been a total of 4 separate engine burns since MOI that have brought MAVEN’s orbital period down to approximately 4.6 hours and a periapsis (closest distance from the Mars surface) of 175 kilometers. Several of the instruments have been activated and we are now seeing data sets from the instruments that we believe will provide great science results on the Mars upper atmosphere. Additionally, the two Langmuir Probe & Waves appendages were successfully deployed on October 9th. The remaining instrument deployments will occur over the next several days.

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Sept. 30, 2014

MAVEN orbit pathsEverything is going well on the mission as MAVEN orbits Mars!  All systems are performing nominally.  Following Mars Orbit Insertion on Sept. 21 the spacecraft successfully completed two engine burns which brings MAVEN closer to its planned science orbit.  We have lowered MAVEN from the 35 hour capture orbit into its current 5.5 hour orbit period.  In the weeks to come we’ll perform additional engine burns to get MAVEN into a 4.5 hour orbit period and the required atmospheric density corridor.

We are also preparing for five separate instrument deployments in the month of October. If all of these execute per plan, we will be targeting a "bonus science” opportunity with the approaching Comet Siding Spring, the comet that will miss Mars by about 135,000 kilometers on Oct. 19.  MAVEN will have a front row seat for this “once in many lifetimes” opportunity.

Mars observations from MAVEN's IUVSThe scientists are already getting an early look at what MAVEN at Mars will mean for the science.  As released last week, the exciting results coming from the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer (IUVS) is just a tip of the iceberg, with many other instrument activations and appendage deployments to come over the next few weeks.

If all goes per plan, prime science should begin on Nov. 8.

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Sept. 22, 2014

Right on schedule on Sept. 21 at 9:50 p.m. EDT, the MAVEN spacecraft fired its main engines for 33 minutes and 26 seconds in order to slow down the spacecraft enough to capture into Mars orbit. Following that event about 10:30 p.m. EDT, David Folta, the Goddard Mission Design/Navigation lead stationed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made the call that we were all waiting for, "Based on observed navigation data, congratulations, MAVEN is now in Mars orbit". The spacecraft team listening on the net at the Lockheed Martin Mission Operations Center erupted with cheers of happiness and relief. Our one shot to get MAVEN safely into Mars orbit had been successful. For some on the Project, it was the culmination of 11 years of work and for many others, it is now the beginning of the science mission.

Following the MOI maneuver, the navigation team determined that MAVEN has an orbital period around Mars of 35.02 hours (nominal plan of 35 hours). Essentially, right on the money! Tomorrow night around midnight we will perform the first post-MOI engine burn (Periapsis Lowering Maneuver-1). PLM-1 will be a 109 second burn on the smaller TCM engines. In the weeks ahead there will be additional engine burns which will eventually get MAVEN into its primary science orbit with an orbital period of 4.5 hours.

Three of the eight science instruments (Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer, Magnetometer, and Solar Energetic Particle instrument) were activated today. Additionally, there will be a series of instrument deployments before transitioning to the primary science phase in early November.

Go MAVEN Science!

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Sept. 21, 2014

Everything is set for MAVEN’s arrival at Mars tonight.  All spacecraft systems are operating nominally. MAVEN is right on track without the need for any further trajectory correction maneuvers. 

Tonight MAVEN will slew (turn) to point the main engines in the direction of travel and fire for about 33 minutes in order to slow down the spacecraft enough to “capture” into Mars orbit. Although we have direct line of sight of MAVEN during the entire burn sequence, the observed data back on Earth will actually be viewed 12 minutes after the events occur because of the distance between Earth and Mars. Also, check out the MAVEN MOI video that has been posted to the web: http://youtu.be/1Hm8b-L62y4

Live Television Coverage of the MOI Event will occur tonight between 9:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. EDT. The Post-MOI Press Conference will occur approximately 2 hours after MOI.  These events can be watched through the “NASA Channel” on your cable/satellite TV system or by going to www.nasa.gov/ntv

To learn more about MAVEN, visit the following websites:

http://www.nasa.gov/maven and http://lasp.colorado.edu/maven

Go MAVEN for Mars Orbit Insertion!

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Sept. 15, 2014

diagram of MAVEN's locationEverything continues to go well with MAVEN as it is readied for arrival at Mars on Sunday, Sept. 21. All spacecraft systems are operating nominally. We had scheduled a final Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-4) for Sept. 12. However, the maneuver was cancelled because the flight path did not warrant a correction. MAVEN is right on track. 

In the next few days the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) sequence will commence on the spacecraft. Most commands will be performed autonomously (without the need for commanding from Earth). However, there are two ground command opportunities still available to alter the spacecraft’s flight path, if necessary, in order to raise altitude for its first pass at Mars. These altitude raise decisions will be made by the project at about 24 hours and 6 hours prior to MOI, in close coordination with the navigation team and the navigation advisory group. Right now we don’t expect to need an additional maneuver because of how well the spacecraft is flying.

On Sunday evening, MAVEN will slew (turn) to point the main engines in the direction of travel and fire for about 33 minutes in order to slow down the spacecraft enough to “capture” into Mars orbit. Although we have direct line of sight of MAVEN during the entire burn sequence, the observed data back on Earth will actually be viewed 12 minutes after the events occur because of the distance between Earth and Mars. For more details, check out the MAVEN MOI video

As we approach the last few days before arriving at Mars, you might be interested in the following events:
 

  • Pre-MOI Press Conference at NASA Headquarters:  Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. EDT
  • Live Television Coverage of the MOI Event: Sept. 21 from 9:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. EDT 
  • Post-MOI Press Conference at Lockheed Martin, Denver: Sept. 21, approximately 2 hours after MOI

All of these events can be watched on the “NASA Channel” on your cable or satellite TV system, or by visiting www.nasa.gov/ntv

As of Sept. 15, the spacecraft is 134 million miles (216 million kilometers) from Earth and 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Mars. From that distance, Mars as seen by MAVEN is the same size as a baseball as seen from 73 feet away.  MAVEN’s velocity is 50,174 miles per hour (22.43 kilometers per second) as it moves around the sun.

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Aug. 29, 2014

MAVEN continues on a smooth journey to Mars. All spacecraft systems are operating nominally. Since we are now in a “pre-Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) moratorium”, all instruments are powered off until after we arrive at the Red Planet.

We had scheduled a final Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-4) for September 12th. The first and second TCMs occurred in December 2013 and February 2014, respectively. The scheduled TCM-3 in July was cancelled because the flight path at the time did not warrant a correction maneuver. As a result of a meeting held on August 26th, it now appears that TCM-4 will also be cancelled. We are tracking right where we want to be. On September 4th we will make a final decision on cancelling this last TCM.

The MAVEN navigation team successfully completed a four-day operational readiness test for the future “deep dip” campaigns planned during the prime science phase.The deep dips are maneuvers that will bring the spacecraft down lower into the Mars atmosphere (approximately 125 kilometers from the surface of Mars). The first deep dip campaign is planned for January 2015.

There was also a review at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with the Deep Space Network (DSN) team to determine its readiness to support Mars Orbit Insertion. The DSN is comprised of a series of antennas/stations that are located around the world and enable us to have continuous communications contact with MAVEN during critical events. The review was successful; DSN is ready to support us on MOI night.

The MAVEN operations team successfully completed the final MOI operational readiness test. Participants supported the rehearsal from their respective day-of-event locations, including the Lockheed Martin operations center in Denver, Colorado, the backup operations center at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Everything went off without a hitch. The team and all assets are ready.

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


July 31, 2014

MAVEN continues on a smooth journey to Mars. All spacecraft and instrument systems are operating nominally. This month was a busy time for spacecraft operations. We performed a series of tests on the Electra telecom relay package, some of the Particles & Fields instruments from the University of California-Berkeley, the mass spectrometer from the Goddard Space Flight Center, and the spacecraft star trackers. The team also did a second round of magnetometer calibrations. The Goddard-built magnetometers are located at the tips of the spacecraft solar arrays. The calibration was conducted by rolling the spacecraft, using thrusters, about the three spacecraft axes.

We had scheduled a third Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-3) for July 23rd. The first and second TCMs occurred in December 2013 and February 2014, respectively. The purpose of this maneuver is to adjust the “aim point” of MAVEN at its closest approach when it arrives at Mars, so that it can properly enter orbit around the planet. TCM-3 was cancelled because the flight path we are currently on did not warrant a correction maneuver. We are tracking right where we want to be. So the next, and probably final, TCM is planned for September 12th.

At the end of this month, we went into a “pre-Mars Orbit Insertion moratorium.” All systems required for a safe Mars Orbit Insertion remain powered on. But other systems like the instruments are shut down until late September because they are not needed for a successful MOI. We want the spacecraft system to be as “quiet” as possible and in the safest condition during the critical event on September 21st.

We had a significant technical review this month on our readiness for the Mars Orbit Insertion event in September and the Comet Siding Spring encounter in October. The review team included independent technical experts from the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, and other external aerospace consultants. The review went very well.

Speaking of Comet Siding Spring, the team has made final decisions on how we are going to operate the spacecraft during the comet’s closest approach. With safety as the highest priority, the plan is to take exciting science data of the comet and Mars’ atmospheric response a couple days before and after the comet’s closest approach on October 19th. On October 19th itself, we will go into a “hunker down” mode as the comet passes by the Mars vicinity. See the following link for a press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which details the plans for MAVEN and other Mars missions: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-244

To wrap up a very busy month, we had a gathering at the University of Colorado-Boulder for a science working group meeting. The team refined their science plans once we arrive at Mars in September. The scientists are very excited about the prospect of discoveries that will begin once we arrive at Mars in less than 2 months!

David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


Feb. 27, 2014

On Feb. 26, mission controllers performed a successful second trajectory correction maneuver, also known as TCM-2. Post-maneuver data review shows that TCM-2 went according to plan. This burn lasted approximately 19 seconds and imparted a change in velocity of 68.8 centimeters per second (1.54 mph).  The maneuver was used to adjust the "aim point" of MAVEN at its closest approach when it arrives at Mars, so that it can properly enter orbit around the planet.  All spacecraft systems continue to show nominal performance. TCM-1 occurred on Dec. 3, 2013. TCM-3 is scheduled for July 23. 

MAVEN is at a distance of 21.2 million kilometers (13.2 million miles) from Earth and 103.7 million kilometers (64.4 million miles) from Mars. The current velocity is 29.44 kilometers per second (65,855 mph) as it moves around the sun.

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colo. The university provided science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the project and provided two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory provided science instruments for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support and Deep Space Network support, in addition to the Electra hardware and operations.

 

Page Last Updated: October 15th, 2014
Page Editor: Rob Garner