MAVEN configured for science, ready for comet encounter

Comet Siding

Artist Rendition of Comet Siding Spring on its October 19th Flyby of Mars and MAVEN in orbit


MAVEN’s initial orbit after deceleration burn and the current 4.5 hour orbit

With four burns completed since Mars Orbit Insertion on Sept. 21st, ‪#‎MAVEN is now in a 4.6 hour orbit with a periapsis (closest approach to Mars) of ~175 km. In MAVEN’s current orbit, Mars’ atmospheric density is 0.04 kg/km³, which is just outside the required density corridor for the primary science phase.

The current orbit places the spacecraft into what is referred to as an “occultation zone” with respect to the arrival of Comet Siding Spring’s dust cloud on Sunday, Oct. 19th. Despite the unique science opportunity presented by the close encounter with an Oort Cloud comet, the safety of the spacecraft at ‪#‎Mars‬ remains top priority. All of NASA’s Mars orbiters have made adjustments to their orbits and spacecraft orientation to minimize any potential risk.

Two Periapsis Lowering Maneuvers (PLMs) planned over next two weeks will lower MAVEN’s periapsis to 150 km and place the spacecraft within the required science density corridor of 0.05 kg/km³ to 0.15 kg/km³.

Article and photo courtesy of the MAVEN Facebook page

NASA Reports MAVEN Mission’s First Look at Mars

Mars Image

NASA Reports MAVEN Mission’s First Look at Mars

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at ‪#‎Mars‬, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly-variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.

The spacecraft, which entered Mars’ orbit Sept. 21, now is lowering its orbit and testing its instruments. MAVEN was launched to Mars in November 2013, to help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.

MAVEN completes first two maneuvers in transition to science phase

Maven Orbit

The #MAVEN spacecraft has successfully completed the first two of six maneuvers of the transition phase that will conclude when the spacecraft begins collecting science data on November 8th.

The two burns have reduced the capture periapsis (closest point to Mars in the orbit) from 380 km to 204 km and the captured orbital period from 35 hours to 5.5 hours.

The first Periapsis Lower Maneuver was a maneuver of 8 m/sec. performed at apoapsis (farthest point from Mars in the orbit) with the purpose of reducing periapsis. The first Period Reduction Maneuver was designed with a delta-V (∆V) of 455 m/sec., about 37% as large as the #Mars Orbit Insertion maneuver, and reduced the orbital period most of way to the science requirement of 4.5 hours. A follow up PRM-2 using only the Trajectory Correction Maneuver engines is scheduled to be performed Oct 2nd to reduce the orbit period the remaining 1 hour.

The full timeline of MAVEN transition events can be found here:

Article and photo courtesy of the MAVEN Facebook page

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft enters orbit around Mars


Artist’s concept of the MAVEN spacecraft’s orbit insertion burn at Mars. Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft braked into orbit around Mars on Sunday after a 10-month interplanetary cruise from Earth, positioning the probe to help scientists learn how water and air were stripped from the red planet’s ancient atmosphere, killing off life that may have once existed there.

Read the full story.

We had a great turn out for the MAVEN Orbit Insertion maneuver here at the Space Sciences Lab. UC’s Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming, Assistant Vice Chancellor Schlesinger and John Kaso from Shared Services were also in attendance. We honored in memorium Karen Meyer the MAVEN Educational group PM and former SSL Director Bob Lin, whose vision was at the forefront of the impetus for MAVEN. Karen’s family and Bob’s wife Lily were in attendance. There was also media coverage from KPIX 5 News.


There were talks and presentations by Dr. Janet Luhman, Dr David Mitchell and Dr. Shannon Curry and a slide presentation by Chris Scholz. NASA TV broadcast from Lochheed Martin in Colorado where mission ops folks were stationed. Everytime SSL or UC Berkeley was mentioned the room broke into cheers. At just over thirty three minutes into the deceleration Burn, Tim Priser of LMCO announced that MAVEN was in orbit and the room erupted into thunderous cheers and applause.

MAVEN Postcard

MAVEN Arrives at Mars on Sunday

MAVEN Launch

In this Nov. 18, 2013 file photo, NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, with a “N”’ in EvolutioN, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, FL

This weekend, NASA’Maven spacecraft will reach the red planet following a 10-month journey spanning 442 million miles. If all goes well, the robotic explorer will hit the brakes and slip into Martian orbit Sunday

“I’m all on pins and needles. This is a critical event,” NASA’s director of planetary science, Jim Green, said Wednesday.

Maven is not designed to land; rather, it will study Mars’ upper atmosphere from orbit.

Read the full story and events happening this Sunday care of

NuSTAR – Pulse of a Dead Star Powers Intense Gamma Rays


Our Milky Way galaxy is littered with the still-sizzling remains of exploded stars.

When the most massive stars explode as supernovas, they don’t fade into the night, but sometimes glow ferociously with high-energy gamma rays. What powers these energetic stellar remains?

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is helping to untangle the mystery. The observatory’s high-energy X-ray eyes were able to peer into a particular site of powerful gamma rays and confirm the source: A spinning, dead star called a pulsar. Pulsars are one of several types of stellar remnants that are left over when stars blow up in supernova explosions.

Follow the link above to the full story, courtesy of

MAVEN orbit insertion maneuver detail


Image credit: NASA

On September 21, 2014, the MAVEN spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars, completing an interplanetary journey of 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). The orbit insertion maneuver will begin with six thruster engines firing briefly to damp out deviations in pointing. Then, the six main engines will quickly ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be captured in an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours. Six smaller maneuvers will be performed later to bring the highest and lowest points of the orbit to the altitudes desired for the science orbit.

At its closest point, MAVEN will be flying in the upper atmosphere, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) above the surface. At its farthest point, the spacecraft will be about 3,900 mi. (6,300 km) above the surface, a vantage point that will allow it to observe the entire planet.

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering into its final science orbit and testing the instruments and science-mapping sequences. Then, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission, during which it will make its key measurements.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s combination of detailed point measurements and global observations provides a powerful way to understand the properties of the upper atmosphere.

The primary mission includes five “deep-dip” campaigns, in which the altitude of MAVEN’s orbit will be lowered to about 77 mi. (125 km). These measurements will provide information down to the top of the well-mixed lower atmosphere, giving scientists a full profile of the top of the atmosphere.

Article courtesy of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission Facebook page