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Next Up for Mars: MAVEN Orbiter

NASA’s next mission to Mars is now assembled and has started environmental testing, headed toward launch later this year.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is now undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems facilities, near Denver, Colorado – the designer and builder of the probe.

On arrival at the red planet, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

The craft is instrumented to help understand the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.

But how do you prep a spacecraft headed for distant Mars?

Rigorous tests

MAVEN will undergo a variety of rigorous tests that simulate the extreme temperatures, vacuum and vibration the spacecraft will experience during the course of its mission.

Currently, the spacecraft is in the company’s Reverberant Acoustic Laboratory being prepared to undergo acoustics testing that mimics the maximum sound and vibration levels the spacecraft will experience during launch.

Following the acoustics test, MAVEN will be subjected to barrage of additional evaluations, including: separation/deployment shock, electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility (EMI/EMC), and magnetics testing.

Also ahead for MAVEN is a thermal vacuum test where the spacecraft and its instruments are exposed to the vacuum and extreme hot and cold temperatures it will face in space, explains a company press statement.

Exciting science

“We’ve got an exciting science mission planned, and the environmental testing now is what will ensure that we are ready for launch and for the mission,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

MAVEN is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in early August and scheduled to launch in November 2013.

For more information about MAVEN, go to:



NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft recently completed assembly and has started environmental testing. In the Multipurpose Test Facility clean room at Lockheed Martin, technicians installed the orbiter’s two solar arrays prior to a modal test.

By Leonard David


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