Mars Telecommunications Orbiter

The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter ( MTO short ) was planned as the first pure communication satellite, which was to be sent on its way to Mars. The satellite will be built by Lockheed Martin for NASA. For a start MTO for 2009 was planned and after about 10 months, he should swing in flight in September 2010 in Mars orbit to spark from there scientific data from space probes that are located on the surface of Mars to Earth. The cost of the mission should be about 500 million U.S. dollars. In July 2005, the mission of the NASA has been canceled for budgetary reasons.


The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter should have first Mars probe has no scientific instruments for the exploration of Mars, but only used for communication between Mars and Earth. He was often referred to by NASA as the first " hub" of the interplanetary Internet. With the help of the MTO, the amount of transmitted data to Earth should be dramatically increased, such as the Mars Science Laboratory would 100 times can transmit as much data through the MTO like without him. In addition, the availability of the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter should liberate future space probes of the necessity to communicate directly with the earth. This would enable the communication systems of the probes smaller and lighter, which would benefit the weight fraction of the scientific payload.

As the first spacecraft Mars Telecommunications Orbiter was designed to test the possibility of communication by laser on planetary distances. In the Mars Laser Communication Demonstration Project speeds of 10 Mbits per second should be demonstrated as a target even 30 Mbit bet per second.

In addition, the MTO should release a small ball the size of a football in the Mars orbit to track them up to a distance of 6,000 km. The data of this experiment should be useful later for the return of Mars samples to Earth, because at such a mission, the capsule has to be with the samples found and caught in orbit, to return it to Earth.


The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter should weigh about 2,000 kg, with most of the weight would account for the fuel that is needed to achieve the desired orbit around Mars in 5000 km altitude. Since a fuel-saving aerobraking maneuver is impossible for a high orbit in the atmosphere would have to be applied by their engines when entering the orbit of the total braking impulse of the probe.

Once in orbit, the spacecraft would comprise about 7 m and include in addition to the large solar panels to generate electricity through a 2-3 m wide antenna for data transmission. With this antenna, the probe with the Deep Space Network (DSN ) of the NASA should be able to communicate with the X-band and Ka-band. More antennas for UHF and X-band would be mounted on a moving platform to communicate with probes on the Martian surface or in the Mars orbit.

Functioning of the mission

It was planned the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter in 2009 to launch a rocket, the Atlas V class from Cape Canaveral, which in September 2010 should enter Mars orbit about 10 months later. He should have a month before the arrival of the Mars Science Laboratory ( whose launch was to take place in 2009, was then postponed to 2011 ) to take his place on a 5,000 km high in Mars orbit. This orbit is about 20 times as high as the orbit of a scientific Mars probe that has to fly so low as to be the Mars surface to be examined closely as possible. Since other priorities apply to the orbit of a communications satellite, namely as long as possible to be seen from a landing site from above the horizon, such a high orbit was chosen for the MTO. In addition, a Mars satellite in high orbit are almost around the clock in contact with the earth, as it is much rarer covered from Mars.

The MTO was designed for a guaranteed mission duration of six years, after which he should be at least another four years revolve around Mars and send it every day up to 15 gigabits of data for all future Mars probes of all kinds and nations to Earth. The start of the next communication satellite as a substitute for the MTO planned NASA peak around the year 2018.

Later, the planned for 2011 and 2013 Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter ( MSTO ) appeared in the plans of NASA, which would have some tasks of the MTO should take over. MSTO but was discontinued due to inaccurate objective.