NASA has selected Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver,
to build the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft
scheduled for launch in August 2005 to return the highest
resolution images yet of the Red Planet.

Lockheed Martin will build the orbiter bus and be responsible
for integrating and testing six science instruments and two
engineering payloads. Lockheed Martin will also provide
spacecraft operations support for the five-and-a-half year
mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena,
Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission.

The contract awarded to Lockheed is for $145 million,
including the development and operations phases.

The 1,800 kilograms (3,970 pounds) orbiter is twice the mass
and will return over 12 times the data of the Mars Global
Surveyor, which has been in orbit around Mars for more than
four years and has returned more than 101,000 images of the
surface. The Global Surveyor spacecraft was also built by
Lockheed Martin under contract to JPL.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter science payload currently
includes the following instruments: a high-resolution
camera, a visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer, an
atmospheric sounder, a wide-angle color imager, a shallow
sub-surface sounding radar and a context imager. The
engineering payload consists of a telecommunications package
that will provide surface communications relay and approach
navigation support, and an optical navigation camera that
will demonstrate precision entry navigation capability for
future landers and orbiters.

“With its specially designed instrument complement, this
mission will investigate the surface of Mars at a resolution
never before achieved from orbit,” said Jim Graf, the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter project manager at JPL. “We will be
able to resolve features the size of beach balls. The images
will help determine future landing sites that are both
scientifically interesting and free from landing hazards.”

“The goal of this orbiter is to understand the history of
water on Mars by observing the planet’s atmosphere, surface
and subsurface in unprecedented detail. This mission will
identify the best sites for a new generation of landed
vehicles to explore, by virtue of its ability to find local
evidence of the chemical and geological ‘fingerprints’ of
water and other critical processes,” said Dr. Richard Zurek,
the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist at JPL.
“The Reconnaissance Orbiter will explore from orbit several
hundred localities on the surface of Mars, observing details
that were previously visible only to landers.”

More information about the Mars Exploration Program is at:

JPL manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Office
of Space Science, Washington. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Related Links

  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – 2005, NASA Announcements of Opportunity Soliciting Proposals for Basic Research AO: 01-OSS-02
  • 26 January 2001: JPL Names Manager of Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter Project, NASA JPL
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA JPL