Launch and Synchrony to its Orbit

The 12th of August, 2005 was marked by the launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter via a rocket at Cape Canaveral Air force Station, with the Centaur upper stage of the rocket finalizing its combustion over around an hour before synchronizing the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in its interplanetary transfer orbit to Mars (Batty 1). The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter traveled through the interplanetary vacuum for 7.5 months before the required orbital insertion was done. Even within its motion the MRO at the proximity of Mars, most of the scientific experiments were carried out.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started its orbital synchrony by advancing towards Mars on March the 10th of 2006 and running over its southern hemisphere at an altitude of 190miles. All the main engines of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were used for about half an hour, reducing the probe from 6,500 mph to 4250 mph. The helium pressurization tank was at such unprecedented low levels of coldness that the pressure within the fuel chamber was lowered by roughly 21 kPa. Due to these minimal levels of pressure, the resultant force in the engine was lowered by 2%; nonetheless, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was prompt in compensating for the loss by adding half a minute burn – time for the engine (Dowdey, and Lamb 1).

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“The final state of the orbital synchrony of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was characterized by a highly elliptical polar orbit with an average period of 35.5 hours” (Dowdey, and Lamb 1). Soon after this process of synchrony, the periapsis (the closest point of the satellite to Mars) was at an estimated distance of 3,800 km from the core of Mars and the apoapsis (the farthest point of the satellite from Mars) was at an estimated distance of 48,000 km from the core of Mars.

On March the 30th of 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter the initial phase of aerobraking was started, which comprised of a three-phased undertaking that was aimed at reducing the fuel needed for the realization of a more circular orbit with a shorter period to a minimal level (ScienceDaily 1).

The first phase did occur during the 5 initial orbits of the satellite around mars – which is approximately 1 earth week, in which the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter harnessed its thrusters in letting down the periapsis of its orbit into aerobraking altitude. The fore-mentioned altitude is dependent on the thickness of the fluctuating atmosphere caused by variations in the Martian atmospheric density as a result of dynamic seasonal adjustments. The second phase occurred in both a consecutive and simultaneous manner to the first phase in that, while utilizing its thrusters in adjusting the periapsis altitude, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter kept the aerobraking altitude under check for 445 planetary orbits (approximately 5 Earth months) with an aim of lowering the apoapsis of the orbit to 450 km. This task was intricately carried out with a lot of expertise in such a manner that the satellite was not over heated, but rather it was relatively inclined towards the atmosphere, thus, retarding the satellite down (Batty 1). The third phase took place soon after the completion of the first two phases; it is in this stage that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter utilized its thrusters to dispel its periapsis towards the outskirts of the Martian atmosphere on August the 30th of 2006.

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