A report discusses a network of spacecraft, in orbit around Mars, used to relay radio communications between Earth stations and mobile exploratory robots (rovers) as well as stationary scientific instruments that have been landed on the Mars surface. The relay spacecraft include two already in orbit plus several others planned to arrive at Mars in the years 2004 through 2008. A major portion of the report is devoted to the orbit of the G. Macroni Orbiter, which is in the midst of an iterative design process and is intended to be the first Mars orbiter designed primarily for radio relay. Candidate orbits are analyzed with a view toward choosing one that maximizes the amount of time available for communication with surface units, taking account of visibility as a function of position, the limit on communication distance at low power, and the fact that surface units can transmit more easily when they are in sunlight. Two promising new orbits for Mars relay satellites are identified: a 1/2-sol apoapsis-at-constant-time-of-day equatorial orbit and a 1/4-sol apoapsis-at-constant-time-of-day, critical-inclination orbit.

This work was done by Gary Noreen, Roger Diehl, and Joseph Neelon of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Spacecraft Orbits for Earth/Mars-Lander Radio Relay

(reference NPO-30639-) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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