NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission reached a milestone in September 2011. Lockheed Martin completed building the primary structure of the MAVEN spacecraft at its Space Systems Company facility near Denver. The MAVEN spacecraft is scheduled to launch in November 2013 and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The mission's principal investigator is Bruce Jakosky from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado.
In the photo taken on Sept. 8, 2011, technicians from Lockheed Martin are inspecting the MAVEN primary structure following its completion at the company's composites laboratory. The primary structure is cube shaped at 7.5 feet x 7.5 feet x 6.5 feet high (2.3 meters x 2.3 meters x 2 meters high). Built out of composite panels of aluminum honeycomb sandwiched between graphite composite face sheets and attached to one another with metal fittings, the entire structure weighs only 275 pounds (125 kilograms). At the center of the structure is a 4.25-foot-diameter (1.3-meter-diameter) core cylinder that will enclose a hydrazine propellant tank and serves as the primary vertical load-bearing structure. The large tank will hold approximately 3,615 pounds (1640 kilograms) of fuel.
The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. MAVEN will determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. manages the project and will also build some of the instruments for the mission. In addition to the principal investigator coming from CU-LASP, the university will provide science operations, build instruments, and lead education/public outreach. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., is building the spacecraft and will perform mission operations. The University of California-Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory is also building instruments for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will provide navigation support, the Deep Space Network, and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.
For more information about MAVEN, visit www.nasa.gov/maven.