Another Mars Mission on the Horizon, Rocket Lab Will Design the Spacecraft

Mars 1 photo
Photo: HH Sheikh Mohammed/Twitter
Mars starts to feel like a second home already, with the plethora of space missions planned to explore the Red Planet’s environment. Two more spacecraft are scheduled to fly to Mars in 2024 and they will be designed by Rocket Lab.
U.S. aerospace company Rocket Lab will design two Photon spacecraft for NASA, to go on a scientific mission to Mars, as part of its SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program.

The mission is called ESCAPADE, which stands for Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamic Explorers. The purpose of the mission is to study the planet’s environment and climate, and why it’s changed over time. The two spacecraft will orbit around the Red Planet trying to offer us a better grasp of the composition, structure, variability, and dynamics of the planet’s hybrid magnetosphere.

The two Photon spacecraft are named simply Blue and Gold and are scheduled for launch in 2024, ridesharing aboard a commercial launch vehicle provided by NASA. The mission will last approximately one year, during which Blue and Gold will insert themselves into elliptical orbits around Mars, as explained by Rocket Lab.

Among others, the spacecraft will be equipped with star trackers, ranging transceivers for space navigation. The two Photons will also have reaction wheels for precision pointing from the company’s Sinclair Interplanetary team.

According to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, the company's two spacecraft will make for a more cost-effective solution to planetary exploration.

The ESCAPADE mission was selected by NASA in 2019, along with two other missions in the SIMPLEx program. The next step is for it to be further reviewed in July. If all goes well, it will move to the implementation phase.

Rocket Lab builds and launches multi-purpose satellites to monitor weather, manage waste and provide insights on climate change. The company was founded in 2006 and it is headquartered in California.
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About the author: Cristina Mircea
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Cristina’s always found writing more comfortable to do than speaking, which is why she chose print over broadcast media in college. When she’s not typing, she also loves riding non-motorized two-wheelers, going on hikes with her dog, and rocking her electric guitars.
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