Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses a new spacecraft design provided by Lockheed Martin Space Systems that is smarter, more reliable, more agile, and more productive than any previous Mars orbiter. It is the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking, a rigorous phase of the mission where the orbiter uses the friction of the martian atmosphere to slow down in order to settle into its final orbit around Mars.
Image right: This artist's concept of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter highlights the spacecraft's radar capability. Image credit: NASA/JPL.
+ Full image and caption
When fully assembled and fueled, the spacecraft cannot weigh more than 2,180 kilograms (4,806 pounds) or the Atlas V launch vehicle will not be able to lift it into the proper orbit. All subsystems and instruments on board (the so-called "dry mass") must weigh less than 1,031 kilograms (2,273 pounds) to allow room for 1,149 kilograms (2,533 pounds) of propellant for trajectory correction maneuvers that keep the spacecraft on target during the cruise to Mars and for burns that help capture the spacecraft into orbit around Mars.
+ Launch vehicle summary
+ Spacecraft instruments
+ Communications with Earth