built by Lockheed Martin
The Phoenix Mission inherits a highly capable spacecraft partially built for the Mars Surveyor Program 2001 (MSP'01) and important lessons learned from the Mars Polar Lander (MPL). The spacecraft was in an advanced state of development when NASA canceled MSP'01 and has been housed in a Class 100,000 clean high-bay facility at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado.
The spacecraft will experience extreme conditions during travel to and exploration of Mars. During launch, the spacecraft will undergo tremendous load forces and shaking stresses as the launch vehicle is propelled out of Earth's gravity well. During the 10-month cruise to Mars, the spacecraft must be able to withstand the vacuum of space with potential radiation hazards from solar storms and micro-meteor impacts from interplanetary dust. During entry, descent, and landing, the spacecraft will be heated to thousands of degrees during aeroshell braking, jerked with tremendous force as the parachute is deployed, and finally will come to a soft touchdown using controlled thrusters. Finally, during surface operations, the spacecraft must withstand the extremely cold temperatures of the martian arctic and the dust storms that potentially affect the area.
Designing and constructing a spacecraft to withstand these extremes is a tricky endeavor and requires considerable testing before launch. Benefiting from the lessons learned during the MPL and MSP'01 experience, as well as further reliability upgrades and subsystems used in previous successful space missions, the spacecraft is in a high state of development early in the mission's fabrication phase. Therefore, the mission engineering team is working on developing enhanced spacecraft reliability through extensive testing, (i.e., beyond normal integration and environment testing that occurs for most missions).
An expanded view of the Phoenix spacecraft's cruise configuration. Image credit: UA/Lockheed Martin.
The Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, in Littleton, Colorado will design, build, integrate, and test the Phoenix spacecraft. The company built the Viking Landers, Mars Global Surveyor, 2001 Mars Odyssey, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as aeroshells for the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions. Lockheed Martin's Ed Sedivy leads the Spacecraft Development team that is building the Phoenix spacecraft, and Ben Clark, a chief scientist at Lockheed Martin, provides a critical interface between the science team and the spacecraft developers.