This software analyzes Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) orbital geometry with respect to Mars Exploration Rover (MER) contact windows, and is the first tool of its kind designed specifically to support MRO-MER interface coordination. Prior to this automated tool, this analysis was done manually with Excel and the UNIX command line. In total, the process would take approximately 30 minutes for each analysis. The current automated analysis takes less than 30 seconds.

This tool resides on the flight machine and uses a PHP interface that does the entire analysis of the input files and takes into account one-way light time from another input file. Input files are copied over to the proper directories and are dynamically read into the tool's interface. The user can then choose the corresponding input files based on the time frame desired for analysis. After submission of the Web form, the tool merges the two files into a single, time-ordered listing of events for both spacecraft. The times are converted to the same reference time (Earth Transmit Time) by reading in a light time file and performing the calculations necessary to shift the time formats. The program also has the ability to vary the size of the keep-out window on the main page of the analysis tool by inputting a custom time for padding each MRO event time. The parameters on the form are read in and passed to the second page for analysis. Everything is fully coded in PHP and can be accessed by anyone with access to the machine via Web page.

This uplink tool will continue to be used for the duration of the MER mission's needs for X-band uplinks. Future missions also can use the tools to check overflight times as well as potential site observation times. Adaptation of the input files to the proper format, and the window keep-out times, would allow for other analyses. Any operations task that uses the idea of keep-out windows will have a use for this program.

This program was written by Teerapat Khanampornpan, Roy Gladden, Forest Fisher, and Pauline Hwang of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-44222.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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