Mars-bound Maven Orbiter Wins Kudos, Enters Testing

by

A NASA-funded Mars orbiter slated to launch late this year has been fully assembled and is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) announced Feb. 18.

Led by LASP researcher Bruce Jakosky, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or Maven, spacecraft is scheduled to launch between mid-November and early December on a two-year mission to study the red planet’s upper atmosphere.

Maven was competitively selected in 2008 under NASA’s Mars Scout Program, a short-lived effort to fund scientist-led robotic Mars missions costing $485 million or less, plus launch.

A Feb. 21 report from NASA’s Office of the Inspector General found that Maven is on track to launch in November at an expected cost of $453 million.

“MAVEN Project managers successfully addressed challenges that have hindered other NASA projects by using a disciplined management approach to achieve cost, schedule and performance goals,” the Office of the Inspector General wrote, noting that experienced leadership, wide use of heritage hardware and software, and stable funding all contributed to the project’s success to date.

Maven is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will undergo final preparations for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

In the meantime, the 900-kilogram satellite will undergo six months of rigorous testing at Lockheed Martin simulating the extreme temperatures, vacuum and vibration the spacecraft will experience during its mission.

“The assembly and integration of MAVEN has gone very smoothly and we’re excited to test our work over the next six months,” Guy Beutelschies, Maven program manager at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement.