Emily LakdawallaSep 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
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. NASA / GSFC / LASP

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-20hSep 20
22:50
Sep 21
05:50
Sep 21
07:50
Sep 21
11:20
Naviagtion Advisory Group recommendation for TCM-5b-7h 20mSep 21
11:30
Sep 21
18:30
Sep 21
20:30
Sep 22
00:00
Targeted TCM-5b start time (if required)-5h 37mSep 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
-1hSep 21
17:50
Sep 22
00:50
Sep 22
02:50
Sep 22
06:20
Planetary Radio Live webcast begins-50m18:0001:0003:0006:30
Reconfigure for low-gain antenna communication throughout burn-35m18:1501:1503:1506:45
Slew to burn attitude-20m18:3001:3003:3007:00
Burn attitude slew complete-10m18:4001:4003:4007:10
30-second settling burn with 6 TCM engines
Staggered IGNITION of 6 main engines
 18:5001:5003:5007:20
Earliest burn completion+32m19:2202:2204:2207:52
Nominal burn completion+33m19:2302:2304:2307:53
Latest burn completion+37m19:2702:2704:2707:57
Planetary Radio Live webcast ends+40m19:3002:3004:3008:00
Start slew back to Earth point+45m19:3602:3604:3608:06
Earth point slew completion+55m19:4602:4604:4608:16
Transition to high-gain antenna communication (if safe)+1h 9m20:0003:0005:0008:30
MOI burn confirmation
Detailed vehicle state assessment
+2h 10m21:0004:0006:0009:30
Navigation orbit verification+3h 39m22:3005:3007:3011:00


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)

  • Sep 22: MAVEN Transition to Transition Phase Configuration; possible IUVS observation
  • Sep 22: At 09:12 UTC, Mars Orbiter Mission test-fires its main engine
  • Sep 24: Periapsis Lowering Maneuver 1 -- a rocket burn at apoapsis will reduce the spacecraft's orbital energy and drop its periapsis closer to the planet
  • Sep 24: At 02:00 UTC, Mars Orbiter Mission arrives
  • Sep 26: MAVEN Period Reduction Maneuver 1 -- a rocket burn at periapsis will shrink the size of the orbit, lowering the apoapsis

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

  • Oct 2: Period Reduction Maneuver 2

Third week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 5-11)

  • Oct 5: Periapsis Lowering Maneuver 2
  • Oct 6: Particles and Fields package checkout; Periapse Time Estimation data collection
  • Oct 7: Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) pre-deploy checkout 1
  • Oct 9: Period Reduction Maneuver 3
  • Oct 10: Langmuir Probe and Wves (LPW) deployment
  • Oct 11: Articulated Payload Platform and Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) deployment

Fourth week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 12-18)

  • Oct 13: Payload Platform calibration / Remote sensing instrument checkout
  • Oct 14: NGIMS checkout 2 / cover deploy
  • Oct 16: Comet Siding Spring science begins

Fifth week after MAVEN arrival (Oct 19-25)

  • Oct 19: At 18:32 UTC, Siding Spring passes by Mars
  • Oct 22: Post Siding Spring spacecraft checkouts
  • Oct 23: Periapsis Lowering Maneuver 3
  • Oct 24: Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) scans

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

  • Oct 24: LPW sync and modes
  • Oct 28: Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) and Magnetometer (MAG) scans
  • Oct 29: Electra Bit Error Rate, Sniff, Switch exercise (Electra is not a science instrument; it is the communications relay for landed Mars missions like Curiosity and Opportunity.)
  • Oct 30: Periapsis Lowering Maneuver 4
  • Oct 31: Payload Platform calibration / Remote sensing instrument checkout repeat

Seventh week after MAVEN arrival (Nov 2-8)

  • Nov 3: LPW ping test
  • Nov 4: MAG roll
  • Nov 5: NGIMS checkout 3
  • Nov 6: Engineering dry run; Electra communications pass with Curiosity
  • Nov 7: Orbit trim maneuver 0
  • Nov 8: Science start

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