MAVEN Aerobraking to Achieve Science and Relay Orbit

  • Released Monday, February 11th, 2019
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:46PM
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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.

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.

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 aerobraking campaign will improve MAVEN's ability to relay data from rovers on the surface of Mars, while also continuing to carry out its science objectives by studying the Mars upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind.

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.  This version has no labels.

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. This version has no labels.

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