This software allows science and mission operations to view graphs of geometric overflights of satellites and landers within the Mars (or other planetary) networks. It improves on the MaROS Web interface within any modern Web browser, in that it adds new capabilities to the MaROS suite.

The profile for an overflight is an important element for selecting communication/ overflight opportunities between the landers and orbiters within the Mars network. Unfortunately, determining these estimates is very computationally expensive and difficult to compute by hand. This software allows the user to select different overflights (via the existing MaROS Web interface) and specify the smoothness of the estimation.

Estimates for the geometric relationship between a lander and an orbiter are determined based upon the orbital conditions of the orbiter at the moment the orbiter rises above the horizon from the perspective of the lander. It utilizes 2- body orbital equations to propagate the trajectory through the duration of the view period, and returns profiles that represent the range between the two vehicles, and the elevation and azimuth angles of the orbiter as measured from the lander’s position. The algorithms assume a 2-body relationship with an ideal, spherical planetary body, so therefore can see errors less than 2% at polar landing sites on Mars. These algorithms are being implemented to provide rough estimates rapidly for the geometry of a geometric view period where more complete data is unavailable, such as for planning purposes.

While other software for this task exists, each at the time of this reporting has been contained within a much more complicated package. This tool allows science and mission operations to view the estimates with a few clicks of the mouse.

This work was done by Michael N. Wallick, Daniel A. Allard, Roy E. Gladden, and Corey L. Peterson of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47722


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Mars Relay Lander and Orbiter Overflight Profile Estimation

(reference NPO-47722) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the December, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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