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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 21, 2014

MAVEN orbit insertion timeline

Today's the day that MAVEN enters orbit at Mars, bringing the number of Mars orbiters up to four for the first time since November 5, 2006, when we lost Mars Global Surveyor. So far, everything looks good; the mission reported on Twitter yesterday that they waved off their penultimate opportunity for a trajectory correction maneuver, and that the navigators estimate that without doing any more pre-arrival burns they will achieve their target periapsis altitude.

The orbit insertion burn should begin tonight at 18:50 PDT / 01:50 UTC. I'll be on stage with Mat Kaplan and Rich Zurek at Planetary Radio Live, keeping up to date with the latest news from the spacecraft; you can watch the Planetary Radio Live MAVEN Orbit Insertion webcast here!

MAVEN enters orbit

NASA / GSFC / LASP

MAVEN enters orbit
MAVEN starts the rocket burn to enter Mars orbit at 18:50 PDT September 21 (01:50 UTC on September 22), 2014. The orbit insertion maneuver will begin with six thruster engines firing briefly to damp out deviations in pointing. Then, the six main engines will quickly ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be captured in an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours. Six smaller maneuvers will be performed later to bring the highest and lowest points of the orbit to the altitudes desired for the science orbit. At its closest point, MAVEN will be flying in the upper atmosphere, about 150 kilometers above the surface.

Here's a timeline of events this evening, in Pacific, Universal, European, and -- for our new Mars mission fans in India, who are eagerly anticipating Mars Orbiter Mission's arrival -- Indian time. Unlike Mars Orbiter Mission, MAVEN will have no period in Mars' shadow, nor is there expected to be any communications blackout during orbit insertion. That's because MAVEN is arriving into a polar orbit and will never disappear behind Mars as seen from the Earth or the Sun; Mars Orbiter Mission will have an equatorial orbit and so must travel behind Mars and into its shadow.

EventTime (rel)Time (PDT)Time (UTC)Time (CEST)Time (IST)
First fault protection reconfiguration -20h Sep 20
22:50
Sep 21
05:50
Sep 21
07:50
Sep 21
11:20
Naviagtion Advisory Group recommendation for TCM-5b -7h 20m Sep 21
11:30
Sep 21
18:30
Sep 21
20:30
Sep 22
00:00
Targeted TCM-5b start time (if required) -5h 37m Sep 21
13:13
Sep 21
20:13
Sep 21
22:13
Sep 22
01:43
Disable fault protection not required to complete burn
Pressurize propellant system
Configure vehicle for fast safe mode recovery
-1h Sep 21
17:50
Sep 22
00:50
Sep 22
02:50
Sep 22
06:20
Planetary Radio Live webcast begins -50m 18:00 01:00 03:00 06:30
Reconfigure for low-gain antenna communication throughout burn -35m 18:15 01:15 03:15 06:45
Slew to burn attitude -20m 18:30 01:30 03:30 07:00
Burn attitude slew complete -10m 18:40 01:40 03:40 07:10
30-second settling burn with 6 TCM engines
Staggered IGNITION of 6 main engines
  18:50 01:50 03:50 07:20
Earliest burn completion +32m 19:22 02:22 04:22 07:52
Nominal burn completion +33m 19:23 02:23 04:23 07:53
Latest burn completion +37m 19:27 02:27 04:27 07:57
Planetary Radio Live webcast ends +40m 19:30 02:30 04:30 08:00
Start slew back to Earth point +45m 19:36 02:36 04:36 08:06
Earth point slew completion +55m 19:46 02:46 04:46 08:16
Transition to high-gain antenna communication (if safe) +1h 9m 20:00 03:00 05:00 08:30
MOI burn confirmation
Detailed vehicle state assessment
+2h 10m 21:00 04:00 06:00 09:30
Navigation orbit verification +3h 39m 22:30 05:30 07:30 11:00


After all this, it will be another seven weeks before MAVEN will be ready for its science mission. Here is a list of what to look forward to -- including a few key events on Mars Orbiter Mission and with a passing comet.

First week after MAVEN Mars Orbit Insertion (Sep 21-28)

Second week after MAVEN arrival (Sep 29-Oct 4)

Third week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 5-11)

Fourth week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 12-18)

Fifth week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 19-25)

Sixth week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 26-Nov 1)

Seventh week after MAVEN arrival (Nov 2-8)

Read more: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status, MAVEN

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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