With five active man-made machines roaming around Mars at the moment, NASA has felt the need to address the prospective traffic jam problem on the red planet. A newly enhanced collision-avoidance system has been developed by the premier space agency in order to accurately warn if two orbiters are in each other’s path.
The focus of this new system is clearly laid on beefing up traffic monitoring, communication and manoeuvre planning in order to make sure that the Mars orbiters do not collide. The five orbiters circling around planet Mars right now include NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), the ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance orbiters.
Moreover, the US space agency also has its defunct NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor hovering around the red planet. Each of the five active Mars orbiters make use of the communication and tracking services on NASA’s Deep Space Network.
Owing to this system, trajectory information is received which enables engineers to run computer projections of future trajectories over the course of the next few weeks. The new collision-avoidance system moreover also keeps track of NASA’s above mentioned Mars Global Surveyor which is no longer working.
The US agency’s MAVEN spacecraft currently studies the upper atmosphere of Mars by flying on an elongated orbit. This means while sometimes it is far away from the planet’s surface and other orbiters, other times it’s extremely close to them. With this in mind, NASA keeps a constant track on the positions of ESA’s and India’s orbiters, both of which fly on elongated orbits as well.
This new and advanced collision-avoidance process for planet Mars has been introduced by NASA as part of its Multi-Mission Automated Deep-Space Conjunction Assessment Process.