Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Instruments
The spacecraft carries six science instruments, three engineering instruments, and two more science-facility experiments.
During its two-year primary science mission, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will conduct eight different science investigations at Mars. The investigations are functionally divided into three purposes: global mapping, regional surveying, and high-resolution targeting of specific spots on the surface.
+ High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)
This visible camera can reveal small-scale objects in the debris blankets of mysterious gullies and details of geologic structure of canyons, craters, and layered deposits.
+ Context Camera (CTX)
+ Mars Color Imager (MARCI)
This camera will provide wide area views to help provide a context for high-resolution analysis of key spots on Mars provided by HiRISE and CRISM.
This weather camera will monitor clouds and dust storms.
+ Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM)
This instrument splits visible and near-infrared light of its images into hundreds of "colors" that identify minerals, especially those likely formed in the presence of water, in surface areas on Mars not much bigger than a football field.
+ Mars Climate Sounder (MCS)
+ Shallow Radar (SHARAD)
This atmospheric profiler will detect vertical variations of temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
This sounding radar will probe beneath the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths greater than one meter.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will carry three instruments that will assist in spacecraft navigation and communications.
+ Electra UHF Communications and Navigation Package
Electra allows the spacecraft to act as a communications relay between the Earth and landed crafts on Mars that may not have sufficient radio power to communicate directly with Earth by themselves.
+ Optical Navigation Camera
This camera is being tested for improved navigation capability for future missions. If it performs well, similar cameras placed on orbiters of the future would be able to serve as high-precision interplanetary "eyes" to guide incoming spacecraft as they near Mars.
+ Ka-band Telecommunications Experiment Package
SCIENCE FACILITY EXPERIMENTS:
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will test the use of a radio frequency called Ka-band to demonstrate the potential for greater performance in communications using significantly less power.
Two additional science investigations will be carried out using engineering data.
+ Gravity Field Investigation Package
By tracking the orbiter in the primary science phase, team members will be able to map the gravity field of Mars to understand the geology of the surface and near-surface and the geophysical processes that produce these land features. For example, analysis could reveal how the planet's mass is redistributed as the Martian polar caps form and dissipate seasonally.
+ Atmospheric Structure Investigation Accelerometers
Data will be collected from accelerometers. During aerobraking, the accelerometers will help scientists understand the structure of the Martian atmosphere.