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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)


The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will make high-resolution measurements of the surface from orbit. It will be equipped with a visible stereo imaging camera (HiRISE) with resolution much better than one meter and a visible/near-infrared spectrometer (CRISM) to study the surface composition. Also on board will be an infrared radiometer, an accelerometer, and a shallow subsurface sounding radar (SHARAD) to search for underground water.


  • HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment)
    This visible camera can reveal small-scale objects in the debris blankets of mysterious gullies and details of geologic structure of canyons, craters, and layered deposits.
  • CTX (Context Camera)
    This camera will provide wide area views to help provide a context for high-resolution analysis of key spots on Mars provided by HiRISE and CRISM.
  • MARCI (Mars Color Imager)
    This weather camera will monitor clouds and dust storms.


  • CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)
    This instrument splits visible and near-infrared light of its images into hundreds of "colors" that identify minerals, especially those likely formed in the presence of water, in surface areas on Mars not much bigger than a football field.


  • MCS (Mars Climate Sounder)
    This atmospheric profiler will detect vertical variations of temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.


  • SHARAD (Shallow Radar)
    This sounding radar provided by the Italian Space Agency will probe beneath the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths up to one kilometer. Tracking of the orbiter will give information on the gravity field of Mars. The primary objectives of the mission will be to look for evidence of past or present water, to study the weather and climate and to identify landing sites for future missions.

The orbiter will also be used as a telecommunications link for future missions (Electra UHF radio).

MRO has a mass of approximately 2180 kg and was launched on an Atlas-5(401) expendable booster during a 21-day launch window from August 8 to 28 August 2005. It reached Mars on 11.03.2006 and will undergo four to six months of aerobraking to lower the initially highly elliptical orbit to a 250 × 320 km polar science orbit. Science observations, including detailed studies of selected target regions, will take place over one Martian year (roughly two Earth years) after which the orbiter will be used as a communications relay.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Mars orbiter
Operator: NASA
Contractors: Lockheed Martin
Equipment: HiRISE, CTX, MARCI, CRISM, MCS, SHARAD, Electra
Propulsion: 6 × MR-107N monopropellant engines
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 2 years (planned)
Mass: 2180 kg
Orbit: Heliocentric, then Mars orbit
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) 2005-029A 12.08.2005 CC SLC-41 Atlas-5(401)


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