Feeds

Nuclear Mars tank prepares for 8-thruster dance

MSL's engines fire up in choreographed sequence in push for Mars

New hybrid storage solutions

The Mars Science Laboratory, the "nuclear-powered robot laser tank" carrying NASA's shiny new rover, Curiosity, is due to fire its engine in two days' time for the biggest manoeuvre on its trip to the Red Planet.

Artist's concept of MSL during cruise phase

Artist's concept of MSL during cruise phase. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On Wednesday night at 11pm GMT, the MSL will fire its eight thruster engines in a choreographed sequence over almost three hours to direct itself more precisely at the Gale Crater on Mars.

When the MSL took off in late November, its trajectory was deliberately aimed at missing the Red Planet to make sure the upper stage of the launch vehicle wouldn't land there when it's discarded by the ship. The laboratory itself was cleaned to protect Mars from Earth's microbes, but the upper stage was not.

As well as shunting the craft onto the right course, the engine dance will also increase the velocity by about 12.3 miles an hour (about 20kmph).

"After this trajectory correction manoeuvre, we expect to be very close to where we ultimately need to be for our entry point at the top of the Martian atmosphere," said MSL cruise mission manager Arthur Amador, in a canned statement.

The MSL is due to arrive at the planet on 6 August, which gives the spacelab five more chances to correct its flight path, if it needs them.

The upcoming manoeuvre will use the MSL's inertial measurement unit to figure out the craft's orientation and acceleration while the engines burn. The unit is being used as an alternative to the onboard celestial navigation system, which was accidentally reset on 29 November when the MSL used its star-identifying software.

On Sunday, the MSL's operations team will start a set of engineering checks, lasting around a week, which will test several parts of the system for landing Curiosity on Mars and for the rover's communication with Mars orbiters. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.