Washington, August 2: Five active spacecrafts are now orbiting the Red Planet, including one from India, leaving SA with no option but to beef up traffic monitoring, communication and manoeuvre planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not collide with one another. The newly-enhanced collision-avoidance system from the US space agency accurately warns if two orbiters approach each other too closely.
SA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from SA — the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconissance Orbiter (MRO). Currently, all the five active Mars orbiters use the communication and tracking services of SA’s Deep Space Network. This brings trajectory information together and engineers can run computer projections of future trajectories out to a few weeks ahead for comparisons. The newly-enhanced collision-avoidance process also tracks the approximate location of the SA’s Mars Global Surveyor, a 1997 orbiter that is no longer working. “Previously, collision avoidance was coordited between the Odyssey and MRO vigation teams. There was a less possibility of an issue,” Robert Shotwell, Mars Programme chief engineer at the SA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. (IANS)