Timeline of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Transfer orbit from Earth to Mars. TCM-1 to TCM-4 denote the planned trajectory correction maneuvers.

Timeline for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) lists the significant events of the launch, aerobraking, and transition phases as well as subsequent significant operational mission events; by date and brief description.

Launch and cruise timeline[edit]

  • April 30, 2005: the MRO spacecraft was delivered to the launch site.
  • August 9, 2005: the August 10 launch opportunity was postponed because of reliability concerns over the Atlas V's gyroscopes.
  • August 10, 2005: concerns over the gyroscopes were resolved. Launch was scheduled for 7:50 am EST, August 11.
  • August 11, 2005: concerns over weather cause a rescheduling of the launch to 9:00 am EST. Conflicting sensor readings during fueling of the Centaur stage's liquid hydrogen fuel tank could not be corrected in time, causing the launch to be scrubbed and rescheduled for 7:43 am EST August 12.[1]
  • August 12, 2005: at 7:43 am EST, MRO was launched. There were no significant anomalies reported during launch and deployment into interplanetary transfer orbit.
  • August 15, 2005: MARCI was tested and calibrated.
  • August 25, 2005: at 15:19:32 UTC, MRO was 100 million kilometers from Mars.
  • August 27, 2005: the first trajectory correction maneuver was executed. The burn used the same main thrusters that are needed for the orbital insertion maneuver and lasted 15 seconds. A velocity change of 7.8 m/s was achieved.
  • September 8, 2005: MRO completed calibration and testing of the HiRISE and CTX cameras by taking pictures of the Moon from 10 million kilometers away.
  • November 18, 2005: MRO underwent its second scheduled course correction by firing its 6 medium thrusters for 20 seconds and changing its velocity by 75 cm/s.
  • January 29, 2006: at 06:59:24 UTC, MRO was 10 million kilometers from Mars.
  • February 3, 2006: MRO began the Approach Phase, in preparation for orbital insertion.

Orbital insertion/ Aerobraking timeline[edit]

First image of Mars from the HiRISE camera
  • March 10, 2006: MRO successfully completed orbital insertion.
  • March 23, 2006: test images from three of MRO's cameras were taken. HiRISE images were taken over the course of two orbits, the first returned from a height of 2500 km (at about ten times poorer resolution than when the camera is in its final orbit). The CTX and MARCI cameras also took test images.[2][3]
  • March 30, 2006: MRO fired its intermediate thrusters for 58 seconds and dropped its periapsis by 94 km, in preparation to begin aerobraking.
  • April 7, 2006: MRO begins a seven month long Aerobraking Stage to reduce its highly elliptical orbit to a circular, low Mars orbit by mid-November.
  • August 30, 2006: Aerobraking ended with a 6 minute burn of MRO's Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thrusters.[4]
  • September 5, 2006: The first of two burns to correctly position MRO into its final science orbit was performed.
  • September 11, 2006: The second of two burns to finalize MRO's orbit was performed, officially ending the Aerobraking Stage.

Transition timeline[edit]

  • September 16, 2006: SHARAD was successfully deployed from MRO.[5]
  • September 24, 2006: MCS and MARCI commenced operations, commencing a martian weather forecast.
  • September 27, 2006: CRISM was powered on for the first time in space, and its lens cap was removed. In addition, SHARAD, HiRISE, and CTX were also powered on for the first time.[6]
  • September 28, 2006: CRISM took its first picture at Mars.

Mission events[edit]

  • September 29, 2006: All instruments will be tested from the science orbit.
  • October 5, 2006: Instruments will be powered down for the Solar Conjunction.
  • November 2006: Primary Science Phase (PSP) commences.
  • May 25, 2008: HiRISE photographs Phoenix during its descent through the Martian atmosphere to a landing in Vastitas Borealis, making MRO the first probe to photograph another probe landing on the surface of another planet (not including our Moon).
  • August 6, 2009: The spacecraft entered safe mode and switched to its backup computer. This is the third incident in 2009 and the seventh since launch.[7]
  • August 26, 2009: The spacecraft entered safe mode for the second time in August. The spacecraft is in communication with Earth and is being kept in this safe mode with scientific and rover communications relay activities discontinued while engineers study the data.[8]
  • December 8, 2009: The spacecraft is finally being taken out of safe mode that it has been in since August. The mission uploaded new software last week and plans to resume science operations once a check of all the science instruments is concluded in about a week.[9]
  • August 6, 2012: HiRISE photographs Curiosity during its descent through the Martian atmosphere to a landing in Gale crater.


  1. ^ "NASA Delays Mars Orbiter Launch (August 11, 2005)". CBS-5 - San Francisco. Retrieved May 27, 2006. [dead link]
  2. ^ "New Mars Orbiter Ready for Action". Space.com. Retrieved March 24, 2006. 
  3. ^ "First Images Beamed Back by Mars Probe". Space.com. Retrieved March 24, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Mars Orbiter Successfully Makes Big Burn". Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  5. ^ "A Ground-Piercing Radar on NASA Mars Orbiter Ready for Work". Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  6. ^ "APL-Built Mineral-Mapping Imager Begins Mission at Mars". Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  7. ^ Tariq Malik (Sat Aug 8, 12:32 am ET). "Powerful Mars Orbiter Switches to Backup Computer". SPACE.com. Retrieved 2009-08-18.  Check date values in: |date= (help)[dead link]
  8. ^ "Orbiter in Safe Mode Increases Communication Rate". NASA/JPL. August 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  9. ^ "Spacecraft Out of Safe Mode". NASA/JPL. December 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-23.