NASA’s MRO Orbiter Scheduled for Maintenance

NASA‘s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shortly known as MRO, is allegedly going to take a break from its science observations and information transmitting while the controlling team based on Earth perform maintenance.

The maintenance work is set to take place for two whole weeks; during that period, other probes will continue transmitting information from the surface of Mars for the Curiosity rover and Mars InSight lander. This short break that NASA will put the orbiter in will allow the space agency to update the battery parameters in the flash memory on board of the probe. Since MRO was launched 15 years ago, such maintenance work has only been carried out two times before.

NASA needs to perform this update because it recently decided that the battery parameters in the flash memory are outdated, and if used, they would be unable to charge the batteries on the orbiter to the required levels.

Besides the updating the battery parameters task, engineers will also use the break to update the planetary position tables that are also located in the flash memory. As part of the maintenance, MRO will be set into a preventive standby mode, also known as ‘safe mode,’ three times during the process. The probe will also trade its primary computer known as Side-A to the extra computer called Side-B.

Fifteen Years of Data Extracting

The MRO debuted in 2005 and has been orbiting Mars since March 10th, 2006. Throughout its expedition, the orbiter has provided NASA with 371 terabits of data; the space agency stated that probes staying in space for long timeframes have to defend against failures because of the aging hardware and the impacts of the rough space settings.

To keep the two computers on board of the MRO up-to-date, engineers will update the flash disk on the Side-A first and then program it to reboot in order to make sure than the flash memory was updated in a correct way.

As soon as the update has been confirmed, the team will switch to Side-B and repeat the steps. Once the updates are performed, MRO will be reactivated and will keep sending back scientific data. NASA said that after the update is carried out, the probe will be ready to continue its missions throughout this decade.

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