NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) launched on November 18, 2013 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a mission to explore how the sun may have thinned the atmosphere of Mars, turning a planet that once could have supported microbial life into a cold and barren desert. MAVEN is the first mission to explore the upper atmosphere of Mars in depth.
The MAVEN spacecraft, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, is an eight-foot cube shaped craft weighing about 5,400 lbs. that is supplied primary electrical power by a pair of wing-shaped solar panels. When fully extended, the two solar arrays stretch 37 feet and are populated with SolAero Technologies’ latest generation ZTJ Coverglass Interconnected Cells (CIC)
The MAVEN will arrive at the Red Planet on Sept. 22, 2014 GMT (in the U.S.it will be late at night on Sept. 21st), and go into an elliptical orbit ranging from a low of 93 miles above the surface to a high of 3,860 miles. MAVEN’s orbit will lower for five “deep dips” during the mission, flying as low as 77 miles in altitude to provide information down to the top of the well-mixed lower atmosphere to give scientists a full profile of the top of the atmosphere.
The MAVEN is outfitted with a trio of instrument suites which are supplied electrical power by its solar arrays populated with SolAero Technologies’ Coverglass Interconnected Cells (CICs). These include the Particles and Fields Package, built by the University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory; the Remote Sensing Package, built by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and the Space Physics; and the Neutral Gas and the Ion Mass Spectrometer, built by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The MAVEN Mission Team
MAVEN has been an extensive team effort featuring the expertise of several key partners:
University of Colorado – Project Principal Investigator, instrument provider, science operations
NASA Goddard – Project management and instruments
Lockheed Martin – Spacecraft manufacturer and mission operations
SolAero Technologies Corporation – Coverglass Interconnected Cells (CIC) manufacturer for Lockheed Martin
The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory – Mission instruments
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) – Navigation and Deep Space Network support and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.
Read More About the MAVEN Mission to Mars