MAVEN spacecraft experience a failure in the orientation system

The MAVEN spacecraft engaged in Mars research has experienced a major failure. This is stated in a message published on the NASA website.

Main objectives of the MAVEN mission

The MAVEN spacecraft entered the orbit of the Red Planet in October 2014. Its main purpose is to study the Martian atmosphere and its evolution. Over the years, the probe has measured the rate of gas leakage from the planet’s gas envelope, assessed the impact of solar activity on this process, discovered a new type of aurora, and also made observations of comet McNaught (C/2013 A1 McNaught). The data it collected helped to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide irretrievably lost by Mars over the past 4 billion years.

The MAVEN spacecraft (concept). Source: NASA/GSSFC

In addition, the automatic scout has also begun to be actively used as a repeater for missions operating on the surface of Mars. In order to increase the speed of data transmission, in 2019, NASA even reduced the height of the spacecraft’s orbit.

MAVEN failure

On February 16, 2023, MAVEN entered safe mode when, in preparation for a small maneuver, a failure in the operation of the inertial measurement modules (IMUS) was detected. These devices ensure the correct orientation of the spacecraft.

A selfie taken by the MAVEN spacecraft. Source: University of Colorado/NASA

On February 17, experts took MAVEN out of safe mode. On February 23, it resumed the implementation of the scientific program. According to NASA, so far MAVEN uses star sensors for navigation instead of IMU. At the moment, engineers are analyzing the available information to make a decision about the possibility of further use of the IMU.

It is worth noting that this is not the first failure of the IMU modules on MAVEN. The previous one occurred in May 2022. Then the specialists managed to resume their work.

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