Mars 2022 orbiter

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Mars 2022 Orbiter
Mars 2022 orbiter.png
Artist's concept of the NeMO
Names Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO)[1]
Mission type telecomm, reconnaissance
Operator NASA
Mission duration ~6.5 years nominal [1]
Spacecraft properties
Dry mass 1,250 kg (2,760 lb)[1]
Payload mass instruments: 50 kg (110 lb)[1]
propellant: 600 kg (1,300 lb)
Power 20 kW solar arrays[1]
Start of mission
Launch date July 2022 (proposed)[1]
Rocket Falcon 9 or Atlas V-411[1]
Mars orbiter
Orbital insertion September 2023[1]
Orbit parameters
Peri Low science orbit: 320 km (200 mi)[1]
Inclination 75° — 93° (polar orbit)

The Mars 2022 orbiter (Next Mars Orbiter, or NeMO) is a proposed Mars communications satellite by NASA with high-resolution imaging payload, and propelled by two solar-electric NEXT-C ion thrusters.[2][3]

The orbiter is proposed to be launched in September 2022 to link ground controllers with rovers and landers and extend mapping capabilities expected to be lost when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and 2001 Mars Odyssey stop functioning.[2] [1]


2 kW Hall thruster in operation as part of the Hall Thruster Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Key features under study include solar electric ion drive engines using Hall effect, better solar arrays, and broadband laser communications (optic communication) between Earth and Mars.[2][3][4]

The orbiter is conceptually similar to the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter, canceled in 2005,[3] and could be a technology precursor for a future round-trip sample return mission and human expeditions to Mars.[2][5] Robert Lock is leading the concept studies for the 2022 orbiter.[2][5]

Concern in NASA is that the currently used relay satellites, 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, may stop functioning, resulting in the need to press the MAVEN science orbiter into use as a backup telecommunications relay.[2][3][6] However, the highly elliptical orbit of MAVEN will limit its usefulness as a relay for surface operations.[7][8]

Another suggested feature under study is "the sample rendezvous capture and return capability." The samples cached by the Mars 2020 rover would be placed in Mars orbit by a future Mars ascent vehicle. From there the orbiter would send the samples back to Earth.[9]


The orbiter would be propelled with two solar-electric NEXT-C ion thrusters; one engine would be active while the other one would be a pare.[1] Electrical power to the engines would be provided by advanced solar arrays that generate 20 kW.[1]

An ion engine would give the spacecraft significant orbital flexibility for long-term support of future missions,[1] opportunistic flybys of Phobos and Deimos,[1] as well as the added capability of orbit support —rendezvous and capture— for a sample return mission.[1] An ion engine would also allow access to multiple latitudes and altitudes to optimize relay contacts.

Proposed payload

  • High resolution imager (30 cm/pixel)
  • Potential for additional instruments from international partners.
  • Potential for rendezvous and capture payload
  • Broadband laser communications (optic communication) between Earth and Mars.[2][3][4]


NASA considers the Mars 2022 orbiter an "essential orbital support for sample return", "significant" in maintaining the Martian communications infrastructure, and desirable for the continuity in remote sensing.[10] The President's FY2017 Budget provides $10 million to begin early work on the future Mars orbiter.[10][11] In June 2016, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will start awarding several $400,000 sub-contracts for research and development of the concept.[1]

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 "Conceptual Studies for the Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO)" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. May 2, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Stephen, Clark (March 3, 2015). "NASA eyes ion engines for Mars orbiter launching in 2022". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved March 7, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Leone, Dan (February 24, 2015). "NASA Eyes New Mars Orbiter for 2022". Space News. Retrieved March 8, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dunbar, B. (2014, October 23). "Benefits of Optical Communications." NASA TV. May 6, 2014. Retrieved on 9 September 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lock, R. E.; Bailey, Z. J.; Kowalkowski, T. D.; Nilsen, E. L.; Mattingly, R. L. (March 2014). Mars Sample Return Orbiter concepts using Solar Electric Propulsion for the post-Mars2020 decade. 2014 IEEE Aerospace Conference. March 1-8, 2014. Big Sky, Montana. doi:10.1109/AERO.2014.6836477.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. NASA Eyes New Mars Orbiter for 2022. Astronaut March 9, 2015. Retrieved on September 9, 2015.
  7. Stephen, Clark (July 27, 2014). "NASA considers commercial telecom satellites at Mars". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved September 23, 2014. It is due to arrive at Mars in September, but MAVEN's planned orbit is not ideal for collecting and sending rover data.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Webster, Guy; Neal-Jones, Nancy (November 10, 2014). "Newest NASA Mars Orbiter Demonstrates Relay Prowess". NASA. 2014-389. Retrieved April 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Evans, Kim (October 13, 2015). "NASA Eyes Sample-Return Capability for Post-2020 Mars Orbiter". Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Retrieved November 10, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Watzin, Jim (March 9, 2016). NASA Mars Exploration Program Update to the Planetary Science Subcommittee (PDF). Update to the Planetary Science Subcommittee.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Brown, Dwayne; Cantillo, Laurie (April 21, 2016). "NASA Seeks Industry Ideas for an Advanced Mars Satellite". NASA.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>