True to this agonizing year that is 2020, yesterday’s launch of NASA’s Mars Mars rover was not without problems.
As planned, a ULA Atlas V rocket was transporting perseverance rover and wit helicopter rose by Air Force Cape Canaallel STation in Florida yesterday morning. Now in space, the Mars 2020 mission is expected to arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.
Everything looked like a picture perfect, but said NASA a couple of brilliant things happened during the launch, neither of which is expected to jeopardize the mission.
While Atlas V ran straight space, telemetry signals sent to ground antennas failed to receive input data. Spatial space was apparently too close to NASA’s Space Network – a system of ground antennas designed to communicate in deep space – causing signal saturation on receivers on the ground, which prevented proper data retrieval of telemetry, according to NASA.
“This is a known issue that we have encountered on other planetary missions, including during the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2011,” Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for the Mars 2020 mission, explained to a NASA statements. “The perseverance team has been working through prepared mitigation strategies that include disconnecting the receivers and directing the antennas slightly off target from the spacecraft to bring the signal within an acceptable range. We are now blocking telemetry after we have taken these actions.”
Okay, so no big deal, but the second issue, though not serious, is still a work in progress: Spatial space is currently in a safe state after a temperature anomaly.
The system uses a liquid freon loop, in which heat from the core of the spacecraft is transported to radiators at the cruise scene, the part of the vehicle that is sending the rover to Mars. A sizthe capable temperature gap between the warm inlet to the radiators and the coolant outlet from the radiators led to the previous software mode.
“As the spacecraft entered Earth’s shadow, the Sun was temporarily blocked by Earth and the exit temperature dropped,” Wallace said. “This caused the difference between the warm plug and the cooler socket to increase. This transient differential triggered an alarm and caused the spacecraft to switch to standby mode, known as ‘safe mode’.”
Calling it a “temporary event,” Wallace said promoting safe mode “during this transitional phase is not problematic for March 2020.”
NASA says there is a tackle to the problem, and mission controllers are now taking the necessary steps to transfer the spacecraft back to cruise mode.
Phew. Glad these are small issues. A major hurdle for the March 2020 mission is exactly what we do not need right now.