Washington: The American spacecraft approached Mars to act as a telecommunications relay for Mars's aircraft and oceans after two months shaking their orbit around the Red Planet.
Spacecraft, called the Atmosphere Mars and unstable evolution (MAVEN), has gradually slowed down by aerobatics, a process that uses the advantage of the upper atmosphere of Mars to determine the small amount of spacecraft resistance, NASA says.
"Like the brakes on the car, but instead of the brake pads, we used Mars's atmosphere," said the navigation team of Stuart Demcak led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
During that time the altitude of the spacecraft (the lowest height of the orbits) was lowered from 151 km to about 132 km above the Mars area. At this altitude, the atmosphere, though extremely thin, is sufficiently thick to provide a small amount of spacecraft resistance needed to slow it down. The altitude of sapphire (the highest point in orbit) fell from about 6050 to about 4570 km, changing the orbit, which improves the availability of MAVEN to support relayships with NASA's lender and rowers on Mars's surface. The period of orbiting dropped from 4.4 hours to about 3.7 hours.
"The final orbita after aerobics is the result of an exhaustive series of engineering trade studies that have balanced the requirements for communication relay, MAVEN's mission, fuel consumption and synchronization of orbits to provide communications support for landing in March 2020," said Russell Carpenter, MAVEN, Deputy Head of Project.
Reducing apaphysis on approximately 1.480 kilometers nearer the surface allows the MAVEN orbiter to more often round Mars – 6.6 orbits per day Earth vs. 5.3 earlier – and more often communicate with Mars rowers.
"The team worked diligently to prepare for aerobatics, and we enjoy the benefits of these countless hours," said Nick Sealy, the stage blocker from Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. "This team did aerobraking lightly."
MAVEN's chief researcher is at the University of Colorado's Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory, Boulder, which also runs scientific operations. NASA's Space Flight Center Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project. Lockheed Martin Space has built a spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Provides navigation support and Deep Space Network, as well as telecommunication relay devices and operations.
Although not conducting relay communications, MAVEN will continue to study the structure and composition of Mars's upper atmosphere. According to NASA, MAVEN has enough fuel for work until at least 2030.