DENVER, Colo. 13 Sept. 2012. Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has begun the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase for NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. MAVEN is scheduled to launch in November 2013 and will be devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
ATLO is when the spacecraft begins to take form and culminates with its launch. Over the next five months technicians will install the subsystems on the main spacecraft structure, comprising avionics, power, telecomm, mechanisms, thermal systems, and guidance, navigation and control. The propulsion system was installed earlier this year and in mid-August the spacecraft was powered up with flight software for the first time.
During ATLO science instruments are being delivered to Lockheed Martin’s Littleton, Colo. facility for integration with the spacecraft. Once the spacecraft has been fully assembled it will undergo environmental testing. This testing is expected to begin in early 2013.
On Sept. 10 the MAVEN project officially received authorization to transition into the next phase of the mission, Phase D, after completing a series of independent reviews which covered the technical and programmic health of the project. The key decision meeting was held at NASA Headquarters in Washington and was chaired by NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
MAVEN is a robotic exploration mission whose goal is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. It will determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time.
MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The university will provide science operations, build instruments, and lead Education/Public Outreach. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project and is building two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., will build the spacecraft and perform mission operations. The University of California-Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory is building instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides Program management via the Mars Program Office, as well as navigation support, the Deep Space Network, and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.