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Entry, Descent, and Landing Communications for the 2011 Mars Science LaboratoryThe Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), established as the most advanced rover to land on the surface of Mars to date, launched on November 26th, 2011 and arrived to the Martian Gale Crater during the night of August 5th, 2012 (PDT). MSL will investigate whether the landing region was ever suitable to support carbon-based life, and examine rocks, soil, and the atmosphere with a sophisticated suite of tools. This paper addresses the flight system requirement by which the vehicle transmitted indications of the following events using both X-band tones and UHF telemetry to allow identification of probable root causes should a mission anomaly have occurred: Heat-Rejection System (HRS) venting, completion of the cruise stage separation, turn to entry attitude, atmospheric deceleration, bank angle reversal commanded, parachute deployment, heatshield separation, radar ground acquisition, powered descent initiation, rover separation from the descent stage, and rover release. During Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL), the flight system transmitted a UHF telemetry stream adequate to determine the state of the spacecraft (including the presence of faults) at 8 kbps initiating from cruise stage separation through at least one minute after positive indication of rover release on the surface of Mars. The flight system also transmitted X-band semaphore tones from Entry to Landing plus one minute although since MSL was occulted, as predicted, by Mars as seen from the Earth, Direct-To-Earth (DTE) communications were interrupted at approximately is approx. 5 min after Entry ( approximately 130 prior to Landing). The primary data return paths were through the Deep Space Network (DSN) for DTE and the existing Mars network of orbiting assets for UHF, which included the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Odyssey (ODY), and Mars Express (MEX) elements. These orbiters recorded the telemetry data stream and returned it back to Earth via the DSN. The paper also discusses the total power received during EDL and the robustness of the telecom design strategy used to ensure EDL communications coverage.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Abilleira, Fernando
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Shidner, Jeremy D.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
April 8, 2015
Publication Date
August 13, 2012
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Launch Vehicles And Launch Operations
Meeting Information
AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference(Minneapolis, MN)
Distribution Limits
relay operations
Entry, Decent, and Landing (EDL)
trajectory designs
mission designs

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