MRO Preparing for Years Ahead

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bystander
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MRO Preparing for Years Ahead

Post by bystander » Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:34 pm

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Preparing for Years Ahead
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MRO | 2018 Feb 09
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has begun extra stargazing to help the space agency accomplish advances in Mars exploration over the next decade.

The spacecraft already has worked more than double its planned mission life since launch in 2005. NASA plans to keep using it past the mid-2020s. Increased reliance on a star tracker, and less on aging gyroscopes, is one way the mission is adapting to extend its longevity. Another step is wringing more useful life from batteries. The mission's extended service provides data relay from assets on Mars' surface and observations with its science instruments, despite some degradation in capabilities. ...

In early February, MRO completed its final full-swapover test using only stellar navigation to sense and maintain the spacecraft's orientation, without gyroscopes or accelerometers. The project is evaluating the recent test and planning to shift indefinitely to this "all-stellar" mode in March.

From MRO's 2005 launch until the "all-stellar" capability was uploaded as a software patch last year, the spacecraft always used an inertial measurement unit -- containing gyros and accelerometers -- for attitude control. At Mars, the orbiter's attitude changes almost continuously, with relation to the Sun and other stars, as it rotates once per orbit to keep its science instruments pointed downward at Mars. ...
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