Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) Spacecraft, United States of America
Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) is a robotic spacecraft scheduled to be used for a Nasa space exploration mission in 2013.
The organisation selected the MAVEN mission in September 2008, as part of the Mars Scout Programme, which is aimed at studying the upper Martian atmosphere. The mission is expected to cost $485m.
The MAVEN spacecraft is scheduled to be launched aboard the Atlas V 401 launch vehicle on 18 November 2013, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It is expected to enter Mars's orbit by autumn 2014.
Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN robot design
The contract for the design and mission operations of MAVEN has been awarded to Lockheed Martin Space Systems. It will be based on the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
In April 2012, a cube shaped hydrazine propellant tank was built by ATK Aerospace in California, which is about 6ft tall and holds more than 450gal of hydrazine propellant. The core structure of MAVEN was integrated with the tank.
The spacecraft was powered with flight software for the first time in August 2012. In September 2012, the project received authorisation to enter into the phase of Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D).
MAVEN completed the final assembly, test and launch operations (ALTO) phase, in which it has taken form. Installation of subsystems on the main spacecraft structure was completed during a period of five months. It consisted of power, avionics, mechanisms, telecom, thermal systems, navigation, control and guidance subsystems.
In February 2013, MAVEN entered into environmental testing phase, which is being carried out at Lockheed Martin's space systems facilities near Denver.
The spacecraft will enter an elliptic orbit, some 3,870 miles above the planet's surface. The launch mass will be about 903kg.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Nasa at Pasadena in California is to provide programme management, telecommunications relay hardware and operations, as well as navigation support.
Onboard systems on Nasa's spacecraft
Onboard equipment of MAVEN will include eight science instruments in three instrument suites.
The first instrument suite will comprise of a particles and field (P&F) package, built at the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory by University of California. It will consist of a solar wind electron analyser (SWEA)-device for solar wind and ionospheric electrons, as well as a solar wind ion analyser (SWIA)-device.
The second instrument suite will have remote sensing (RS) package, which will be built by the University of Colorado at its laboratory for atmospheric and space physics.
The equipment at the suite will include imaging ultraviolet spectrometer (IUVS)-devices for determining the global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
In addition, the third instrument suite will be built by Goddard Space Flight Centre, which will contain a neutral gas and ion mass spectrometer (NGIMS) package; this will be facilitated with equipment for the measurement composition and isotopes of neutral gases and ions.
Mission capabilities of the Mars-bound MAVEN
The MAVEN spacecraft will stay on Mars for half of a Martian year, which is equivalent to one full Earth year. During this time, it will measure the upper atmosphere of the planet and study the history of the loss of atmospheric gases of its climate to space throughout time.
In addition, the mission will include determining the role that loss of volatiles to space from the Martian atmosphere has played through time.
It will also determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the solar wind, as well as the current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions into space and the processes for controlling them. The ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere will be determined as well.
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