Instrument Host Information
Instrument Host Overview

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Spacecraft
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses a spacecraft design provided by 
    Lockheed Martin Space Systems that is smarter, more reliable, more 
    agile, and more productive than any previous Mars orbiter. It is 
    the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking, 
    a rigorous phase of the mission where the orbiter uses the 
    friction of the martian atmosphere to slow down in order to settle 
    into its final orbit around Mars.

    When fully assembled and fueled, the spacecraft had to weigh less 
    than 2,180 kilograms (4,806 pounds) so that the Atlas V launch 
    vehicle could lift it into the proper orbit. All subsystems and 
    instruments on board (the so-called 'dry mass') weighed less than 
    1,031 kilograms (2,273 pounds) to allow room for 1,149 kilograms 
    (2,533 pounds) of propellant for trajectory correction maneuvers 
    that kept the spacecraft on target during the cruise to Mars and 
    for burns that helped capture the spacecraft into orbit around 

    Spacecraft Configurations
    During its five-year mission, the spacecraft needed to operate in 
    four distinct mission phases. 

    Launch: During launch, the spacecraft had to fit within the nose 
    cone, or payload fairing, of the launch vehicle, so the large 
    parts like the high-gain antenna and the solar arrays were 
    designed to be folded up. As soon as the launch vehicle placed the 
    spacecraft on a course to leave earth orbit for its journey to 
    Mars, it disconnected itself from the spacecraft.
    Cruise: As soon as the spacecraft was clear of the launch vehicle, 
    the orbiter deployed its solar arrays to begin producing power. 
    The high-gain antenna was also be deployed at this point. The 
    high-gain antenna moved to track the Earth, while the solar panels 
    remained fixed.
    Mars Orbit Insertion and Aerobraking: The Mars orbit insertion and 
    aerobraking configuration looked very much like the cruise 
    configuration, except that the high-gain antenna was moved to a 
    position that balanced the solar arrays as it flew through the 
    upper atmosphere of Mars. The heaviest part of the spacecraft (the 
    propellant tank) also made the spacecraft very stable. Due to the 
    large area (37.7 square meters or 405.8 square feet) of the 
    spacecraft in this configuration, each pass through the martian 
    atmosphere during aerobraking caused significant slowing, thus 
    reducing the size of the orbit. Friction from the atmosphere had 
    the additional effect of heating up the spacecraft, so components 
    were designed to withstand this heating. The flight team could 
    further control the heating by changing how deeply the spacecraft 
    dipped into the atmosphere on each orbit.
    Science Operations:  During the primary science phase, the 
    orbiter's job was to point its science instruments at Mars to 
    collect images and other data from targets on the surface of Mars, 
    while ensuring that the high-gain antenna and solar arrays were 
    continuously tracking the Earth and the Sun, respectively.
    The orbiter typically kept its science instruments pointed to 
    nadir (looking straight down at the surface). A few times per day, 
    and for about fifteen minutes each time, the orbiter pointed side-
    to-side in order to capture high-priority science targets that did 
    not fall directly beneath the spacecraft. The spacecraft could 
    point off-nadir up to 30 degrees.

    Major Spacecraft Components
    Science Payload Instruments: To fulfill the mission science 
    objectives, seven scientific investigations teams were selected by 
    NASA.  Four teams (MARCI, MCS, HiRISE, and CRISM) were led by 
    Principal Investigators (PI).  Each PI lead team was responsible 
    for the provision and operation of a scientific instrument and the 
    analysis of its data. The PI lead investigations were: Mars Color 
    Imager (MARCI); Mars Climate Sounder, (MCS); High Resolution 
    Imaging Science Experiment, (HiRISE); and Compact Reconnaissance 
    Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, (CRISM).  

    In addition to the PI lead teams, there were two investigation 
    teams that made use of facility instruments. The facility 
    instruments were Context Imager (CTX) and Shallow (Subsurface) 
    Radar (SHARAD).

    The MARCI PI and Science Team also acted as Team Leader (TL) and 
    Team     Members for the CTX facility instrument.  The Italian 
    Space Agency (ASI) provided a second facility instrument, SHARAD, 
    for flight on MRO. ASI and NASA both selected members of the 
    SHARAD investigation team with ASI appointing the Team Leader and 
    NASA appointing the Deputy Team Leader.

    In addition to the instrument investigations, Gravity Science and 
    Atmospheric Structure Facility Investigation Teams used data from 
    the spacecraft telecommunications and accelerometers, 
    respectively, to conduct scientific investigations.

    The science instruments are summarized below.

    Instrument: CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for 
    Type: High-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer
    Measurements: Hyper-spectral Image Cubes, 514 spectral bands,
      0.4-4 microns, 7 nm resolution, from 300km; 20 m/pixel, 11 km 
    Science Goals: Regional & local surface composition and morphology.
    Key Attributes:  Moderately high spectral & spatial resolution, 
      targeted and regional survey, very high data rate.
    Principal Investigator: Scott Murchie, Johns Hopkins University 
      Applied Physics Lab.

    Instrument: CTX (Context Imager)
    Type: Mono-chromatic Context Camera
    Measurements: Panchromatic (minus blue)Images from 300km
      altitude; 30km swath & 6m/pixel context imaging for HiRISE/CRISM 
      & MRO science.
    Science Goals: Regional stratigraphy and morphology.
    Key Attributes:  Moderately high resolution with coverage, targeted 
      & regional survey; high data rate.
    Team Leader: Michael Malin, Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS).

    Instrument: HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment)
    Type: High-Resolution Camera (0.5 m aperture)
    Measurements: Color images, stereo by site revisit, from
      300km; < 1m/pixel (ground sampling @ 0.3 m/pixel), 6 km swath in
      red (broadband), 1.2km swath in blue-green & NIR.
    Science Goals: Stratigraphy, geologic processes and morphology.
    Key Attributes:  Very high resolution targeted imaging, very high 
      data rate.
    Principal Investigator: Alfred McEwen, University of Arizona.

    Instrument: MARCI (Mars Color Imager)
    Type: Wide-Angle Color Imager
    Measurements: Coverage of atmospheric clouds, hazes and ozone,
      and surface albedo in 7 color bands (0.28-0.8 micrometers)
      (2 UV, 5 Visible).
    Science Goals: Global weather and surface change.
    Key Attributes: Daily global coverage daily global mapping, 
      continuous operations dayside; moderate data rate.
    Principal Investigator: Michael Malin, Malin Space Science Systems 

    Instrument: MCS 
    Type: Atmospheric Sounder
    Measurements: Atmospheric profiles of water, dust, co2 &
      temperature, polar radiation balance, 0-80km vertical coverage, 
      vertical resolution ~5km.
    Science Goals: Atmospheric structure, transport and polar processes.
    Key Attributes:  Global limb sounding; daily, global limb & 
      on-planet mapping; continuous operations day and night; low data 
    Principal Investigator: Originally Daniel J. McCleese, Jet Propulsion 
      Lab (JPL); currently David Kass, JPL.

    Instrument: SHARAD
    Type: Shallow Subsurface Radar Sounder
    Measurements: Ground penetrating radar; 10-MHz band centered at
      20 MHz; 15 m free space vertical resolution; 1.5-8 km horizontal 
      resolution, improved to 0.3-1 km along-track with SAR processing.
      Science Goals: Regional near-surface ground structure.
      Key Attributes:  Shallow sounding; regional profiling; high data 
    Team Leader: Roberto Seu, University of Rome, Italy.
    Deputy Team Leader: To 2015: Roger Phillips, Washington University, 
      St. Louis, and Southwest Research Institute; From 2015: Nathaniel
      Putzig, Planetary Science Institute.

    Engineering Instruments: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter carried three 
    instruments that will assist in spacecraft navigation and 
    1. Electra UHF Communications and Navigation Package: Electra 
    allowed the spacecraft to act as a communications relay between 
    the Earth and landed crafts on Mars that may not have sufficient 
    radio power to communicate directly with Earth by themselves.
    2. Optical Navigation Camera: This camera was being tested for 
    improved navigation capability for future missions. Similar 
    cameras placed on orbiters of the future would be able to serve as 
    high-precision interplanetary 'eyes' to guide incoming spacecraft 
    as they near Mars.

    3. Ka-band Telecommunications Experiment Package: Mars 
    Reconnaissance     Orbiter tested the use of a radio frequency 
    called Ka-band to demonstrate the potential for greater 
    performance in communications using significantly less power.
    Structures:  The structures subsystem is the skeleton around which 
    the spacecraft was assembled. It supported and protected the other 
    engineering subsystems and the science instruments. It was strong 
    enough to survive launch, when the forces can exceed 5 g's. 
    Extremely lightweight but strong materials were used to achieve 
    this strength, including titanium, carbon composites, and aluminum 
    Mechanisms:  There were three main mechanisms on board Mars
    Reconnaissance Orbiter:
    * one that allowed the high-gain antenna to move in order to point
      at earth
    * two that allowed the solar arrays to move to point at the sun

    Each of these mechanisms, called gimbals, moved about two axes in 
    much the same way that your wrist allows your hand to move in two 
    axes: left/right and up/down.
    As the spacecraft traveled around Mars each orbit, these gimbals 
    allowed both solar arrays to be always pointed toward the sun, 
    while the high-gain antenna could simultaneously always be pointed 
    at earth.

    Telecommunications System:  The telecommunications subsystem was a 
    two-way radio system used for receiving and transmitting commands 
    and data between the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Deep 
    Space Network antenna on earth. With its large-dish antenna, 
    powerful amplifier, and fast computer, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 
    could transmit data to earth at rates as high as 6 megabits per 
    second, a rate ten times higher than previous Mars orbiters. The 
    orbiter's radio operated in the X-band of the radio spectrum, at a 
    frequency of around 8 Gigahertz.
    Major components of the telecom subsystem included:
    * Antennas for transmitting and receiving commands
    * Amplifiers for boosting the power of radio signals so that they 
      are strong enough to be received at the Deep Space Network 
    * Transponders for translating navigation and other signals from 
      the orbiter

    Also on board was Electra, a UHF telecommunications package that 
    was one of the engineering instruments providing navigation and
    communications support to landers and rovers on the surface of 
    Mars. Electra allowed the spacecraft to act as a relay between the 
    earth and landed crafts on Mars, which may not have sufficient 
    radio power to communicate directly with earth.
    High-gain Antenna: The high-gain antenna is a 3-meter diameter
    (10-foot) dish antenna for sending and receiving data at high 
    rates. The high-gain antenna was deployed shortly after launch and 
    remained deployed for the remainder of the mission. It served as 
    the primary means of communication to and from the orbiter. The 
    high-gain antenna had to be pointed accurately and was therefore 
    steered using the gimbal mechanism. 

    Low-gain Antennas: Two smaller antennas were present for lower-
    rate communication during emergencies and special events, such as 
    launch and Mars Orbit Insertion. The data rate of these antennas 
    was lower because they focused the radio beam much more broadly 
    than the high gain antenna, so less of the signal reached earth. 
    But the Deep Space Network station on the earth could detect the 
    signal even when the spacecraft was not pointed at earth, and 
    therefore these antennas were useful for emergencies. The low-gain 
    antennas had the capability to transmit and receive. The two low-
    gain antennas were mounted on the high-gain antenna dish--one on 
    the front side and one on the back--and were moved with it. Two 
    were needed in that placement so that communication was possible 
    at all times, no matter what the position of the spacecraft might 
    be at a given time.

    Amplifiers: Located on the backside of the high-gain antenna was 
    the     enclosure for the Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers, which 
    boosted the power of radio signals so that they were strong enough 
    to be received at the Deep Space Network antennas. There were 
    three amplifiers on board:
    * two for the X-band radio frequency that transmitted radio
    signals at a power of 100 watts (the second one was for back up 
    to ensure communications in case the first amplifier failed)

    * one for Ka-band radio frequency that was capable of transmitting 
    at 35 watts.

    Transponders: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter carried two 
    transponders, which are special types of radio 
    receiver/transmitters, specially designed for long-range space 
    communications. The second transponder was a backup. The 
    transponders had several functions:
    * transmit/receive function: translated digital electrical signals 
    into radio signals for sending data to earth, and translated radio 
    signals to digital electrical signals for receiving commands from 
    * transponding function: listened for and detected a signal coming 
    in from earth, to which it automatically responded

    * navigation function: transmitted several types of signals that 
    provided     critical navigation clues, enabling navigators on the 
    ground to make precise calculations of the spacecraft speed and 
    distance from earth

    Propulsion: The propulsion subsystem performed major maneuvers 
    such as trajectory correction maneuvers and Mars orbit insertion. 
    The propulsion subsystem was also used to control the spacecraft's 
    position, as a backup to the reaction wheels.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used a monopropellant propulsion 
    system: it carried fuel (hydrazine), but no oxidizer. Thrust was 
    produced by passing the fuel over beds of catalyst material just 
    before it entered the thruster, which caused the hydrazine to 

    The propulsion system included:

    Propellant Tank
    The monopropellant hydrazine tank held 1187 kilograms (2617 
    pounds) of usable propellant. Over 70% of the total propellant was 
    used during Mars orbit insertion.
    Pressurant Tank
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fed pressurized helium gas from a 
    separate high- pressure tank, through a regulator, into the 
    propellant tank where it put the hydrazine propellant under 
    Lines, Valves, and Regulators
    The pressurized hydrazine flowed through a system of metal tubing 
    to each of the thrusters. Each thruster had a valve so that it 
    could be fired independently. Additional valves in the propellant 
    lines turned on and off the flow to groups of thrusters.

    A total of 20 rocket engine thrusters were onboard:

    * Six large thrusters, each producing 170 Newtons* (38 pounds 
    force) of thrust for performing the Mars orbit insertion burn. 
    Together, all six produce 1,020 Newtons (230 pounds force) of 
    * Six medium thrusters, each producing 22 Newtons* (5 pounds 
    force) of thrust for performing trajectory correction maneuvers, 
    and for helping to keep the spacecraft pointing in the right 
    direction during the Mars orbit insertion burn.
    * Eight small thrusters, each producing 0.9 Newtons* (0.2 pounds 
    force) of thrust for controlling where the orbiter is pointed 
    during normal operations as well as during Mars orbit insertion 
    and trajectory correction maneuvers.
    Command and Data-Handling Systems:  The Command and Data Handling
    subsystem controlled all spacecraft functions. This system:

    * managed all forms of data on the spacecraft;
    * carried out commands sent from earth;
    * prepared data for transmission to the earth;
    * managed collection of solar power and charging of the batteries;
    * collected and processed information about all subsystems and 
    * kept and distributed the spacecraft time;
    * calculated its position in orbit around Mars;
    * carried out commanded maneuvers; and
    * autonomously monitored and responded to any onboard 
      problems that occurred.

    The key parts of this system were:
    * Space Flight Computer (a space-qualified processor based on the
      133 MHz PowerPC processor)
    * Flight Software
    * Solid State Recorder (total capacity 160 Gigabits)
    Guidance, Navigation, and Control Systems:  The guidance, 
    navigation, and control subsystem was used to control the 
    orientation of the orbiter as it travels through space and to 
    maintain knowledge of where celestial bodies are located (for 
    example, Earth and the sun). This knowledge was critical for the 
    spacecraft to perform the correct maneuvers to get to Mars, to 
    keep its solar arrays pointed toward the sun in order to produce 
    power, and to keep its antenna pointed toward the earth in order 
    to maintain communications.
    Once in orbit around Mars, this subsystem also maintained constant
    knowledge of where the spacecraft was in its orbit, and was able to
    point the science cameras to an accuracy of about 1/20th of one
    Electrical Power:  The electrical power subsystem was responsible
    for generating, storing, and distributing power to the orbiter 
    systems and included two solar panels and two nickel-hydrogen 

    Solar panels: The one and only source of power for Mars 
    Reconnaissance Orbiter was sunlight. Mounted on opposite sides of 
    the orbiter and capable of changing position to allow the orbiter 
    to track the sun continuously, each solar panel had an area of 
    approximately 10 square meters (107.6 square feet), and contained 
    3,744 individual solar cells. The solar cells were able to convert 
    more than 26% of the sun's energy directly into electricity. The 
    solar panels were deployed soon after launch and remained deployed 
    throughout the mission.

    During aerobraking the solar panels had a special role to play. As 
    the     spacecraft skimmed through the upper layers of the martian 
    atmosphere, the large, flat panels acted to slow the spacecraft 
    down and reduce the size of its orbit. The solar arrays were 
    designed to withstand temperatures of almost 200 Celsius.

    Nickel-hydrogen batteries: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used two 
    nickel-hydrogen rechargeable batteries, each with an energy 
    storage capacity of 50 ampere-hours (at 32 volts, 1600 watts per 
    hour). Only about 40% of the battery capacity was intended to be 
    used. The batteries charged during the day side of each two-hour 
    orbit around Mars, using electricity produced by the solar cells, 
    and provided power during the night side of each orbit.
    Thermal Systems: The thermal subsystem maintained the right
    temperatures in all parts of the spacecraft. It employed several
    conduction- and radiation-based techniques for thermal control:

    * Radiators
    * Surface coatings
    * Thermal blankets
    * Heaters.