Mars Telecommunications Orbiter
|Mission Type:||Planetary Science, Mars Exploration|
|Launch Vehicle:||Possibly an Atlas V(401) or a Delta-4M.|
|End of Mission:||Cancelled|
|Planned Mission Duration:||1 year cruise plus 10 years on orbit|
|Webpage:||JPL's MTO web page|
|Semi-major axis:||5,000 kilometers|
|Electra :||Relay science data from future Mars missions|
|Optical Communications Payload:||Demonstrate laser communications to Earth|
|Narrow Angle Camera:||Support canister detection|
|Orbiting Sample Demonstration Canister:||Technology demonstration|
The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter was a cancelled Mars mission that was originally intended to launch in 2009 and would have established an Interplanetary Internet between Earth and Mars. The spacecraft would have arrived in a high orbit above Mars in 2010 and relayed data packets to Earth from a variety of Mars landers and orbiters for as long as ten years, at an extremely high data rate. Such a dedicated communications satellite was thought to be necessary due to the vast quantity of scientific information to be sent to Earth by such landers as the Mars Science Laboratory.
However, on July 21, 2005, it was announced that MTO had been canceled due to the need to support other short-term goals, including a Hubble servicing mission, Mars Exploration Rover extended mission operations, launch Mars Science Laboratory in 2009, and to save Earth science mission Glory from cancellation
Data transfer technology
The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter was a project to demonstrate optical communications using laser, instead of usual radiowaves. "Lasercom sends information using beams of light and optical elements, such as telescopes and optical amplifiers, rather than RF signals, amplifiers, and antennas" 
After the cancellation, a broader mission was proposed as the Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter. However, this mission was soon criticized as lacking well-defined parameters and objectives. Another mission has since been proposed as the 2013 Mars Science Orbiter. The communications capability provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Express science missions has proven substantial, demonstrating that dedicated relay satellites may be unnecessary in the near future. The newest Mars telecomm orbiter is the MAVEN, which arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014 with an Electra transceiver.
LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) includes the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration, and Laser Communications Relay Demonstration plans to test laser communications from Earth orbit.
As of 2015, the proposed 2022 Mars Orbiter is to be a dedicated telecommunications orbiter with a robust science package. It is anticipated to contain a laser communications subsystem. Concern in NASA is that the currently used relay satellite, Mars Odyssey, may fail, resulting in the need to press MAVEN into use as the telecommunications relay.
- Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives July 15, 2005 | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference
- Townes, Stephen A. et al. "The Mars Laser Communication Demonstration" (PDF). Retrieved April 28, 2008.
- NASA (March 2006). "NASA MEPAG: Mars Science and Telecommunications Orbiter (DRAFT)".
- National Research Council (2006). "Assessment of NASA's Mars Architecture 2007-2016".
- NASA to Demonstrate Communications Via Laser Beam (2011) - NASA
- Dan Leone (24 February 2015). "NASA Eyes New Mars Orbiter for 2022". Space News.
- End-to-End Information System Concept for the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter – March, 2006 NASA JPL report describing the mission.
- NASA To Test Laser Communications With Mars Spacecraft – By Brian Berger, Space News, 25 May 2005
- Shayler, et al. - Marswalk One: First Steps on a New Planet - Page 160 (Laser communication design for Mars base)