Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was delivered in two large containers from Lockheed Martin to Cape Canaveral on an Air Force C-17 cargo plane.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in its aerobraking stage

NASA‘s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the latest robotic spacecraft destined for Mars, arrived at Kennedy Space Center‘s Shuttle Landing Facility on April 30 aboard a C-17 cargo plane and was delivered to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to begin processing. Launching is scheduled for August 10, 2005.

With a mission time line through 2010, the MRO will conduct studies of the Martian atmosphere, surface and subsurface in far greater detail than previous missions. Possible landing sites for future Mars landings will be evaluated and the orbiter will also act as a high-data-rate communications relay for surface missions.

“Great work by a talented team has brought Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to this milestone in our progress toward a successful mission,” said Jim Graf of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) project manager for the mission.

Multiple mechanical assembly operations and electrical tests are scheduled to verify the craft’s readiness for launch. A May test to verify communication abilities through NASA’s Deep Space Network will be conducted and in June deployment of the high gain communications antenna will be tested. A deployment test is also scheduled for the Orbiter’s large solar arrays.

The MRO will be filled with hydrazine fuel in July for its “Mars orbit insertion burn” which reduces the craft’s velocity and places it in orbit about the red planet. July 26 will see the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter installed in an Atlas V rocket fairing for final assembly with the rocket on July 29.

After the scheduled launch, the MRO will spend seven months cruising to Mars and another six months aerobraking after orbital insertion. A variety of scientific instruments on board will be used to search for geological evidence of past seas, ancient shorelines.The craft was built near Denver by Lockheed Martin Space Systems which also supplies the Atlas V launch vehicle.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project. International Launch Services, a Lockheed Martin joint venture, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems are providing launch services for the mission.

More information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available at: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter website

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