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MarCO (Mars Cube One) is a two spacecraft mission to accompany the InSight Mars lander to provide real-time data relay during the landing phase, as the MRO, MAVEN, and Mars Odyssey orbiters will not be in position to receive InSight data.

The MarCO space craft will be built at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the 6U-cubesats form factor. They will feature two deployable solar arrays and a deployable X-band antenna and an UHF antenna. These provide an 8 kbps UHF link from InSight to MarCO and an 8 kbps X-band link: MarCO to the Deep Space Network (DSN).

MarCO carries a self-contained propulsion system featuring a system-in-a-tank design with propellant storage and feed system, thrusters and a controller and sensor suite. It has four 4 axial and four RCS 25 mN thrusters.

The MarCO satellites will be deployed from the Atlas-5(401) launch vehicles upper stage and fly on their own to Mars, performing trajectory correction maneuvers.

Depending on remaining fuel, the MarCO craft may continue on to visit a small body.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Communication, data relay, interplanetary
Operator: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Contractors: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Configuration: CubeSat (6U)
Propulsion: 4 × axial 25 mN thrusters, 4 × RCS 25 mN thrusters
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Lifetime: > 1 year
Orbit: Interplanetary
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
MarCO 1 - 2018 Va SLC-3E Atlas-5(401) with InSight, MarCO 2
MarCO 2 - 2018 Va SLC-3E Atlas-5(401) with InSight, MarCO 1