As the #MAVEN spacecraft orbits #Mars, its elliptical orbit precesses and incurs changes over time. In order for scientists to acquire the data they need from Mars’ upper atmosphere, the spacecraft must remain within a specific corridor around Mars. The team regularly monitors and models MAVEN’s orbit to ensure that targeted densities are maintained throughout the mission
The MAVEN navigation team performs Orbit Trim Maneuvers (OTMs) about once every two weeks in order to maintain the targeted atmospheric density corridor.
The last OTM, performed on Dec. 29 (on orbit number 2429), lowered the periapsis altitude by 11.3 km to near 139 km, where the density of Mars’ atmosphere is 0.17 kg/km³. The orbit period for MAVEN is currently 4 hours 31.2 minutes with an Earth to MAVEN distance of 1.69 A.U.
Article Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars