A transceiver designed by UK-based QinetiQ is in orbit around the Mars on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express and will soon monitor NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) through entry, descent and landing on to the surface of the planet on Monday, 6 August.
QinetiQ has modified a transceiver, launched in 2003, to allow it to record transmissions from MSL during the critical seven minutes as it approaches the Martian surface, which will be sent back to Earth to allow scientists to analyse the performance of the system.
“This is a landmark achievement for the QinetiQ Space Team, and sets a solid base for future innovations,” said Sanjay Razdan, managing director new technologies at QinetiQ.
“We are also currently developing the next generation of the UHF transceiver, which will be used as the communications system on the Mars landers for ESA’s upcoming ExoMars missions,” said Razdan.
After the landing phase has completed successfully, MELACOM will support the mission on Mars by sending commands to the rover vehicle and relaying science data and pictures back to Earth, alongside the transceivers on NASA’s satellites Odyssey and MRO.
During this phase of the mission, recent software enhancements will increase the volume of data that can be transmitted to MSL on the Martian surface.