Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
a multitasking, multipurpose mars
orbiter. MRO was the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking
and was equipped with the most powerful camera ever flown on
a planetary exploration mission.
It was launched on 12 August, 2005
arrived in March 2006.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used a new
spacecraft design provided by Lockheed Martin Space Systems that
was smarter, more reliable, more agile and more productive than
any previous Mars orbiters. The orbiter established the first
installment of an "interplanetary Internet" for future
spacecraft. It became the first
link in a communications bridge back to Earth.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
mission is managed by Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) and Lockheed Martin Space
Systems is the prime contractor for the project. International
Launch Services, a Lockheed Martin joint venture and Lockheed
Martin Space Systems are providing launch services for the
The aim of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is:
photograph in detail the geology and structure of Mars. The
orbiter uses the most powerful camera ever flown on a
planetary exploration mission. It will be able to spot objects as
small as a dinner plate, whereas on previous Mars orbiters the
cameras could identify objects no smaller than a dinner table.
2. To identify surface minerals
on Mars, determine if there are deposits of minerals that form in
water over long periods of time, detect any shorelines of ancient seas and lakes and analyze
deposits placed in layers over time by flowing water. A second
camera provides medium-resolution images to place in context
the detailed observations made by other instruments.
3. To identify
and characterize potential sites for future landers, rovers and
mars sample return missions and to search for possible obstacles
that could jeopardize the safety of future mars missions.
4. To search
for subsurface water, determine the nature of the complex layered
terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms, sites
showing evidence of aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity.
5. To study the
present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal
climate change. To study how dust and water are transported in the martian
atmosphere and monitor weather.
serve as a high-data-rate communications relay for future surface
missions. To also test an experimental optical navigation
camera that will serve as a high-precision interplanetary
lighthouse to guide incoming spacecraft as they near Mars.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
consists of a main bus, constructed of titanium, carbon
composites, and aluminum honeycomb. It includes two solar panel
wings and a 3 meter high-gain antenna dish. The bus houses the
propulsion system, telecommunications, command, guidance, and
science instruments. The maximum spacecraft mass is 2180 kg, which
includes 1149 kg of propellants.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses
a monopropellant propulsion system and consists of a total of 20
thrusters. Six 170 N (Newton) monopropellant (hydrazine)
main-engine thrusters are used for the Mars Orbit insertion burn,
a maneuver which will require about 70% of the total fuel
onboard. Six 22 N thrusters are used for trajectory correction
maneuvers and eight 0.9 N thrusters for pointing. All thrusters
are fed from a single propellant tank mounted near the centre of
the main bus.
Work by NASA describing the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was
announced April 2001.
* On November
9, 2001, NASA announced the selection of 10 scientific
investigations as part of the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
spacecraft arrived at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing
Facility on April 30, 2005 aboard a C-17 cargo plane and was taken
to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to begin processing.
The Atlas V-401 launch
vehicle (designated AV-007)
launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on August 12, 2005 from
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, USA. The cruise
to Mars took about seven months. It arrived at Mars in 10 March
2006 and the orbiter performed a Mars orbit insertion maneuver,
passing under the southern hemisphere of Mars and firing its main
engines to slow the spacecraft by about one km/sec, leaving it in
a 300 x 45000 km polar capture orbit with a 35 hour period.
Aerobraking was used over the next six months
(March, 2006 - November, 2006) to lower the orbit to the 255 x 320
km science orbit. Science operations took place nominally from the
end of solar conjunction in November 2006 to the start of the next
solar conjunction in November 2008, roughly one Martian year.
* Science operations started from November,
2006 to November, 2008. MRO gathered information about Mars
through the day-to-day activities of the orbiter.
* On November
17, 2006 NASA announced the successful test of the Mars
Reconnaisance Orbiter as an orbital communications relay. Using
the NASA Spirit Rover over as the point of origin for the
transmission, the MRO acted as a relay for transmitting data back
* From November, 2008 to December, 2010 Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter was used to communicate with other landed
* On December 31, 2010, the orbiter's primary
mission ended (about five-and-a-half years after launch). The
orbiter will be able to continue providing relay services for as
much as another 5 years beyond its planned end date.
On August 4, 2011,
NASA announced that Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected what
appears to be flowing salty water on Mars surface or subsurface.
The primary science instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE): The
visible stereo imaging camera is designed to take the
high-resolution images from orbit of anywhere on Mars and to
provide unprecedented image quality, resolution and coverage at
sub-meter scales. The instrument will be capable of panchromatic
and color images.
Camera (CTX): 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.
Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM):
This visible/near-infrared spectrometer will study the surface
composition. It 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 Color Imager (MARCI):
This weather camera will monitor
clouds and dust storms.
Climate Sounder (MCS): The infrared radiometer will detect vertical variations of temperature, dust, and
water vapour concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
Radar (SHARAD): This sounding radar will probe beneath
the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths
greater than one meter.
SHARAD is provided by the Italian Space Agency to search for
There are three
engineering instruments aboard MRO:
1. The Electra
UHF communications and navigation package, which will be used as a
relay between the Earth and future Mars missions.
When future landers and rovers have landed safely on Mars, Electra
provide precise Doppler data which, when combined with Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter's position information, can accurately
determine the location of the lander or rover on the surface of
2. The optical
navigation camera, which will be tested for possible navigational
use on future planetary spacecraft
3. The Ka-band
telecommunications experiment package will be testing high
performance Ka-band communications. Engineering accelerometer data
will be used to study the structure of the martian atmosphere and
tracking of the orbiter will be used to study the gravity field of
Reconnaissance Orbiter mission was successful, it increased our
Mars' composition and structure, from atmosphere to
underground, in much greater detail than any previous orbiter.
Books and DVDs:
Section with various books on topics related to Planet Mars.
Includes documentaries, TV shows and movies.
Mars Exploration Rover Replica: The Mars Exploration Rover is a 1/10th
scale reproduction of the twin "Spirit" and "Opportunity" robotic
geologists (from EntertainmentEarth.com)
- The next NASA Mars mission will
be the Mars Phoenix Lander, followed by
Mars Science Laboratory.
- What is Mars Aerobraking? Aerobraking is a process that
uses the friction of the Martian atmosphere to slow the spacecraft
down. MRO is the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking.
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