Sunday, January 08, 2012

MSL Trajectory Maneuver Planned for Jan. 11


The Mars Science Laboratory is getting ready to make some moves. Already about 75 million miles from Earth on its 352-million mile journey to Mars, the spacecraft is slated to perform a series of thruster firings on January 11 which will leave the MSL’s Curiosity Rover on a more precise course for its planned August landing at Gale Crater.

The 175 minute long sequential firing of the craft’s eight thruster engines will be the biggest maneuver slated during the voyage. The initial trajectory of the MSL following the mission’s November 26, 2011 launch intentionally misses Mars as to avoid the risk of the spacecraft’s upper stage hitting the planet and introducing Earth microbes into the Martian environment. The upper stage was not cleaned to the same level as the spacecraft itself.

Information posted about the mission on the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website said the upcoming maneuver will impart a velocity change of about 12.3 miles per hour, or 5.5 meters per second.

The update stated:

"We are well into cruise operations, with a well-behaved spacecraft safely on its way to Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory Cruise Mission Manager Arthur Amador, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "After this trajectory correction maneuver, we expect to be very close to where we ultimately need to be for our entry point at the top of the Martian atmosphere."

The mission's schedule before arrival at Mars on Aug. 5 in PDT (Aug. 6 in Universal Time and EDT) includes opportunities for five more flight path correction maneuvers, as needed, for fine tuning.

The Jan. 11 maneuver has been planned to use the spacecraft's inertial measurement unit to measure the spacecraft's orientation and acceleration during the maneuver. A calibration maneuver using the gyroscope-containing inertial measurement unit was completed successfully on Dec. 21. The inertial measurement unit is used as an alternative to the spacecraft's onboard celestial navigation system due to an earlier computer reset.

TO READ MORE ABOUT THE MSL CLICK HERE

TO FOLLOW THE MISSION ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER CLICK HERE


No comments: