Magnetometers built at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the agency’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) mission have been delivered to the University of California at Berkeley Space Science Laboratory for integration with Maven’s Particles and Field Package, NASA said in a May 21 press release.
“The magnetometer is the first of the science instruments to be completed and delivered,” Maven Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky said in a statement. “It’s really exciting to see the payload now starting to come together. This is an important milestone in our path toward getting to Mars and using our measurements to answer questions about the history of the martian atmosphere.”
Maven, a $670 million orbiter slated to launch in November or December 2013 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, is being led by Goddard and largely built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver.
The Particles and Field Package, one of three instrument suites Maven will carry on its 22-month mission to the red planet, contains six sensors that will characterize the solar wind and ionosphere of the planet. The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics — Jakosky’s home institution — is in charge of a second instrument suite, dubbed the Remote Sensing package, that will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. A third suite, called the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, is being built by Goddard and will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions.
The purpose of the Maven mission, which will spend 10 months traveling to Mars and one year orbiting the planet, is to help scientists understand how Mars’ climate evolved to its current state.