For the past four years, the spacecraft MAVEN has carefully studied the atmosphere of Mars. All this time he flew a distance of 196 6 km from the planet’s surface, but in 2020 he will take on the additional task, for which she needs to fall lower. The highest point of the elliptical orbit will be from 6400 to 4500 miles — this will allow him to become a repeater of signals from the Mars 2020 Rover to the ground control center mission.
To reduce its speed, the machine will perform the aerodynamic braking maneuver called aerobraking. This means that MAVEN will periodically soderjatsya with the atmosphere of the planet and lose speed. This approach will allow him to save fuel — it is expected that with reasonable usage it will last until 2030.
Approaching the planet, the machine will make around it a lot more revs and 5.3 times a day instead of the previous 6.8 times. Because of this, he will be able to communicate with the Mars 2020 and transmit information to Earth. The proximity of the satellite to the Rover needed to bond was the most reliable. It is noteworthy that in all of this it will not stop its research mission and will continue to study the properties of the planet.
It’s like using a mobile phone — the closer you are to the cell tower, the stronger the signal.
Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator
It is expected that the maneuver of aerobraking will continue over the next two and a half months. During this time he can fly around the planet about 360 times, slowing down slightly at each contact with the atmosphere. Despite the complexity, this maneuver is the best way to slow down the spacecraft with minimum fuel consumption.
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