Application of Accelerometer Data to Mars Odyssey Aerobraking and Atmospheric Modeling
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Aerobraking was an enabling technology for the Mars Odyssey mission even though it involved risk due primarily to the variability of the Mars upper atmosphere. Consequently, numerous analyses based on various data types were performed during operations to reduce these risk and among these data were measurements from spacecraft accelerometers. This paper reports on the use of accelerometer data for determining atmospheric density during Odyssey aerobraking operations. Acceleration was measured
... tion was measured along three orthogonal axes, although only data from the component along the axis nominally into the flow was used during operations. For a one second count time, the RMS noise level varied from 0.07 to 0.5 mm/s 2 permitting density recovery to between 0.15 and 1.1 kg/km 3 or about 2% of the mean density at periapsis during aerobraking. Accelerometer data were analyzed in near real time to provide estimates of density at periapsis, maximum density, density scale height, latitudinal gradient, longitudinal wave variations and location of the polar vortex. Summaries are given of the aerobraking phase of the mission, the accelerometer data analysis methods and operational procedures, some applications to determining thermospheric properties, and some remaining issues on interpretation of the data. Pre-flight estimates of natural variability based on Mars Global Surveyor accelerometer measurements proved reliable in the mid-latitudes, but overestimated the variability inside the polar vortex.