Thermal Model Correlation for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) launched on August 12, 2005 and began aerobraking at Mars in March 2006. In order to save propellant, MRO used aerobraking to modify the initial orbit at Mars. The spacecraft passed through the atmosphere briefly on each orbit; during each pass the spacecraft was slowed by atmospheric drag, thus lowering the orbit apoapsis. The largest area on the spacecraft, most affected by aeroheating, was the solar arrays. A thermal analysis of the solar arrays was conducted at NASA Langley Research Center to simulate their performance throughout the entire roughly 6-month period of aerobraking. A companion paper describes the development of this thermal model. This model has been correlated against many sets of flight data. Several maneuvers were performed during the cruise to Mars, such as thruster calibrations, which involve large abrupt changes in the spacecraft orientation relative to the sun.