This update sent in earlier today by ESA’s Simon Wood, one of the engineers working on the Mars Express mission operations team at ESOC.
Today, ESA’s Mars Express orbiter will send telecommands to NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.
The transmission is part of a routine quarterly test of the communications link between MEX and Curiosity – NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Aside from its prime science mission, Mars Express is able to provide contingency communications with MSL (or with any NASA rovers) in case of any problems with the normal data relay links.
This particular test consists of MEX hailing MSL – sending a specific signal requesting MSL to listen – then transmitting commands (provided by the MSL team at NASA/JPL) to the rover and then recording data transmitted back.
Background sequence of activities
- MEX mission planning system schedules pointing of MEX’s UHF (ultra high-frequency) antenna at MSL – end-December 2104
- MSL team provides command file (i.e. the telecommands to be transmitted) to the MEX flight control team at ESOC – last week of February 2015
- MEX flight control team uploads the commanding ‘products’ (files to be executed on board MEX) on 27 February; these were generated on 24 February
Operations timeline today
All times UTC
14:29 MEX will slew from Earth pointing to pointing its UHF antenna at MSL on the surface
14:41 MEX UHF antenna switches on – takes 15 mins to warm up
14:56 Overflight begins with MEX hailing MSL; overflight lasts 9 mins
15:05 MEX begins to slew back toward Earth pointing
Data received from MSL will be transmitted back to Earth by MEX at around 16:30 UTC via ESA’s deep-space ESTRACK station in Malargüe, Argentina.
Later, NASA’s deep-space network teams will extract the data from the MEX packet archive and pass this on the the MSL team for analysis.
Best regards from the MEX control team at ESOC!