MAVEN resumes scientific research and operations

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission returned to normal scientific activity on May 28, 2022 after exiting a long safe mode. In February, the spacecraft experienced problems with its inertial measurement units (IMUs).

MAVEN launched in November 2013 and went into orbit around Mars in September 2014. The purpose of the mission is to study the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind in order to investigate the loss of the Martian atmosphere into space.

Understanding atmospheric loss gives scientists the ability to determine the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, the presence of liquid water, and the planet’s habitability. The main mission of MAVEN was designed for one year.

On February 22, 2022, the team lost contact with the spacecraft after it completed a routine IMU-1 power cycle. IMUs are used to determine the position of a spacecraft in space by measuring its rotational speed.

Two identical IMUs are installed on board MAVEN: IMU-1 is the main one, and IMU-2 is the backup one. After re-establishing contact with the spacecraft, engineering telemetry indicated that it was unable to determine its position from any of the IMUs.

In response, the spacecraft performed a computer reset, but still could not determine its position. As a last resort, the spacecraft switched to a backup computer, allowing MAVEN to obtain accurate readings from IMU-2. The spacecraft went into “safe mode” in which it stopped all planned activities,

In the months that followed, the spacecraft team at Lockheed Martin worked to speed up software development to enable all-star mode as the IMU-2’s projected lifespan expires in October. On April 19, five months ahead of schedule, the spacecraft team completed development and handed over the software cipher to MAVEN.

After the all-star mode was turned on, the spacecraft crew and science team activated the instruments and set them up to operate in science mode.

The equipment turned out to be serviceable and the observation was successfully resumed; however, the spacecraft was limited in pointing to Earth until testing of the all-star mode was completed.

However, MAVEN even observed a coronal mass ejection that collided with Mars less than two days after turning on the instruments.

The MAVEN spacecraft continues to successfully operate in full stellar mode

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