JPL DESCANSO - Deep Space Communications and Navigation Center of Excellence

Telecommunications and Navigation Strategies in NASA's Mars Exploration Program

Presented by:
Dr. Chad Edwards
Manager, Mars Network Office - TMOD
Chief Telecommunications Engineer - Mars Program Office


NASA recently announced a new plan for the exploration of Mars, incorporating new scientific discoveries as well as lessons-learned from the losses of the Mars '98 missions. The new plan lays out a rich series of orbiter and lander missions over the coming decade, culminating in a challenging first sample return mission, possibly as early as the 2011/2012 opportunity. This talk will provide an overview of the program plan and highlight the telecommunication and navigation challenges of the new program. Specific needs include demand for increased data return and connectivity, telemetry support to critical mission events such as Entry/Descent/Landing, and energy-efficient relay support to small scout-class missions. Navigation needs include precision approach navigation in support of landers and aerocapture orbiters, surface positioning of mobile rovers, and in-orbit rendezvous with orbiting samples. Strategies for meeting these needs will be discussed, including the development of a standardized proximity link payload for flight on all Mars science orbiters, as well as a potential partnership with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to deploy a dedicated telecommunications orbiter in 2007. A number of high-payoff technologies will be identified as priorities for JPL developments.

The Speaker

Dr. Chad Edwards is manager of the Mars Network Office within TMOD and Chief Telecommunications Engineer within the Mars Program Office. He joined JPL in 1984, after obtaining an A.B. degree in Physics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Physics from Caltech. Since coming to JPL, he has worked on radio metric tracking techniques for astronomy and deep space navigation applications, and has served as manager of the TMOD Technology Program. When not busy with the NASA day gig, he is an active jazz pianist in the LA area.

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