The #MAVEN navigation team has given the green light for today’s initial “walk down,” which will lower the periapsis of the spacecraft by about 20 km and begin a transition into an area of Mars’ upper atmosphere known as the “homopause.” This region of Mars’ atmosphere is about 30 times more dense than the area explored by MAVEN during its primary science mapping operations, with a density between 2.0 – 3.5 kg/km³.
The first maneuver of this initial “deep-dip” campaign will be carried out this afternoon (Feb. 10, 2015) and will lower the periapsis altitude to about 133 km. It is the first of three maneuvers that will “walk” the MAVEN spacecraft into the deep-dip density corridor.
Last week, mission operators successfully ran the full sequences for a “deep-dip demo,” which included everything except having the lower periapsis. The instruments were in their deep-dip modes and the spacecraft was in its deep-dip orientation for the test.
The first of five planned deep-dip campaigns will begin with a two-day “walk-down” into the target density corridor, which will be followed by five days with a periapsis in this corridor (~125 km), and then another two days of periapsis raising maneuvers to bring the spacecraft back into its nominal science mapping orbit.
For more information about MAVEN’s science mapping orbit, visit: