Optimisation of the Future Routine Orbit for Mars ExpressMars Express (MEX), the first planetary mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), reached Mars on December 25th 2003. Since then it is performing routine operations. Its operational phase had to cover one Martian year, with the possibility of an extension for a second Martian year (i.e. until November 2007). The end of the mission extension is approaching but, given the good health of the payload instruments and the high science return of the mission, there is a strong will to achieve further extensions. Mars Express is also seen as an important asset, capable to provide relay functions for future Martian missions. The ESA Science Program Committee has recently approved a second extension of the MEX mission until May 2009 and even further extensions are possible. Mars Express has an eccentric quasi-polar orbit with a period of approximately 6.72 hours and a pericentre height of about 300 km. Science observations are mainly performed at pericentre (but not only). In addition the orbit has a resonance of 11 revolutions per 3 Martian days. This means that ground tracks corresponding to orbits separated by 11 revolutions are adjacent, such that a given area can be covered by the on-board camera without leaving gaps. The J2 effect of Mars causes a drift of both ascending node and argument of pericentre. The drift of argument of pericentre makes it possible to observe periodically all Mars latitudes from close distance. Illumination conditions at pericentre are influenced by both the drift of the argument of pericentre and the drift of ascending node, as well as by the rotation of Mars around the Sun. The original MEX routine orbit was optimized for the duration of the nominal mission and extension, such that it produced a balanced share of day-side observations (for the optical instruments) and night-side observations (for the radar). The orbit was thus not optimized for the time beyond the assumed extension. Indeed, the evolution of the ascending node and argument of pericentre would cause in the following years a drift of the pericentre towards night-side observation conditions, hence uninteresting for the optical instruments. In order to prevent this an optimisation process for the future routine orbit has taken place. The share between day-side and night-side observations can be controlled by adjusting the drift of argument of pericentre and ascending node. This can in particular be achieved by changing the semimajor axis, eccentricity and/or inclination. A change of inclination is inefficient compared to a change in semimajor axis and eccentricity, and has therefore been discarded. An in-plane maneuvre can be performed to change both semi-major axis and eccentricity, and thus the period of the orbit. Although an apocentre manoeuvre is cheaper in terms of deltaV, it would result in raising the pericentre height, which is unfavourable for close observations. Hence a pericentre manoeuvre is proposed, which will increase the apocentre height. A repeat cycle is still required to allow mapping areas with adjacent ground tracks, so the change of semimajor axis must result in a new resonance. Resonances 18:5, 25:7 and 7:2 have been considered as potential candidates. The resulting long term evolution of the observation conditions has been analysed. Finally it has been decided to perform a change of orbit to reach the 18:5. Another aspect of the optimisation process is the control of the ground track. The previous MEX reference trajectory included regular maneuvres at every apocentre in order to adjust the orbital period, such that the separation of the ground tracks would be optimal, regardless of the latitude of pericentre. The implementation of the actual delatVs on-board was done partly by optimizing the attitude of reaction-wheel desaturation activities. Despite of it, this strategy has a significant propellant cost, because it prevents to optimize reaction wheel de-saturation activities to minimize propellant consumption. Therore, with the aim at preserving propellant resources for a long time extension it has been agreed to stop the ground-track control. This requires now a more accurate science operation planning, with improved attitude pointing control. Finally, the approach to phase Mars Express to provide back-up relay functions for NASA Phoenix landing is explained. In the context of the routine trajectory optimisation a new requirement for close fly-bys at Phobos, with different observation geometries, has been specified. The approach to fulfill this requirement is explained.
Carranza, Manuel (GMV S.A. Darmstadt, Germany)
Companys, Vincente (GMV S.A. Darmstadt, Germany)
August 24, 2013
September 24, 2007
Publication: Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics