The Big Burn: What’s happening 28 July

Deep space manoeuvre – DSM-1

Tomorrow, 28 July, ExoMars/TGO will conduct one of the most critical activities during the voyage to Mars: a very large engine burn in deep space (DSM-1) that starts at 09:30 UTC (11:30 CEST), runs for about 50 mins and that is planned to change the craft’s direction and speed (‘delta-v’) by 326.497 m/second.

The amount of delta-v is programmed; the length of the burn will be automatically controlled by on-board software, which will shut off the engine once the target delta-v is achieved, as sensed by accelerometers – this should be about 50 mins.

Commands to carry out the burn were uploaded yesterday via ESA’s New Norcia deep space ground station in Australia.

The flight control team here at ESOC will follow progress of the burn via New Norcia; the high gain antenna will be folded away and there will be no telemetry, but we will see carrier signals and Doppler, and this will give a very good indication of overall progress. We’ll get an initial assessment from Flight Dynamics based on this, and then full details once the the link is restored later in the afternoon.

This burn will provide about 95% of the delta-v needed to line up TGO to intercept Mars on 19 October. A second deep space manoeuvre (DSA-2) is set for 11 August and a set of small ‘trim’ manoeuvres are set for 19 September and 14 October.

Follow @esaoperations in Twitter for live updates.

Watch the replay of yesterday’s ESA Hangout via Google+ – a live video chat with ExoMars/TGO mission operations experts and the instrument project manager for the NOMAD spectrometer.

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