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Science Operations Planning for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Presentation #118.08 in the session Mission-supporting Practices, Modeling, and Data (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Science Operations Planning for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was launched in March 2016 and entered Mars orbit in October 2016. After an extended aerobraking phase the nominal science orbit was reached in April 2018 and routine science operations started.

The scientific payload of the TGO spacecraft comprises the following four instruments: The Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS), the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), the Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND), and the Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery (NOMAD) instrument. ACS and NOMAD are dedicated to studies of the Martian atmosphere - most importantly the detection and quantification of trace gases. Both ACS and NOMAD consist of three different sensors addressing different spectral ranges and can operate in nadir as well as in solar occultation pointing mode. For the latter, the instruments feature specific solar occultation boresight ports in order to minimise spacecraft slews. The CaSSIS camera is equipped with a rotation mechanism allowing to acquire images of the same target with different viewing angle in the same overflight pass. Specific regions can be targeted by rolling the spacecraft in across-track direction. The FREND instrument requires nadir or near-nadir pointing during a large fraction of time in order to map the hydrogen abundance in the sub-surface.

The Science Operations Centre (SOC) based at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) is responsible for the implementation of science operation timelines, considering the instrument team requests and the mission’s science priorities, while at the same time complying with spacecraft and operational constraints. After more than five years of operations we review the evolution of the observation plans which could be achieved by relaxing constraints, adding pointing functionalities, and phasing in new types of observations.

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