Aerobraking plan for MAVEN

February 11, 2019

In February 2019, MAVEN began an aerobraking campaign to tighten its orbit around Mars. When the campaign finishes in late April, MAVEN's furthest distance from the planet will be reduced by about 1,700 kilometers and its orbital period will be shortened by an hour. The purpose of the aerobraking campaign is to improve the relay capabilities of MAVEN for transmitting data from rovers on the surface of Mars, while also continuing to carry out its science objectives by studying the Mars upper atmosphere.

Aerobraking plan for MAVEN:

Left: Current MAVEN orbit around Mars — 6200-km highest altitude, and an orbit period of ~4.5 hours.

Center: Aerobraking process — MAVEN performs a series of “deep dip” orbits approaching to within ~125 km of Mars at lowest altitude, causing drag from the atmosphere slow down the spacecraft. Over roughly three-hundred and sixty orbits spanning about two months, this slowing reduces the spacecraft’s highest altitude to ~4500 km and its orbit period to ~3.5 hours.

Right: Post-aerobraking orbit, with reduced altitude and shorter orbit period.


NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Kel Elkins and Dan Gallagher


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