Status: Active. First Launch: 1998-12-11. Last Launch: 2002-07-03. Number: 3 . Thrust: 3,020.00 kN (678,920 lbf). Gross mass: 170,000 kg (370,000 lb). Height: 39.00 m (127.00 ft). Diameter: 2.44 m (8.00 ft). Apogee: 400,000 km (240,000 mi).
The Mars Climate Orbiter was the second flight of the Mars Surveyor Program. The probe was to enter a 160 km x 38600 km polar orbit around Mars on September 23,1999, and use aerobraking to reach a 373 km x 437 km x 92.9 degree sun-synchronous mapping orbit by November 23 1999. While the Mars Orbit Insertion burn began as planned on September 23, 1999 at 08:50 GMT, no signal was received after the spacecraft went behind the planet. Subsequent investigation showed that the spacecraft had plunged deep into the Martian atmosphere, with its closest approach to Mars being 57 km. It was concluded that the spacecraft burnt up in the atmosphere. It was later found that cutbacks in tracking, combined with incorrect values in a look-up table imbedded deep in the spacecraft software (use of pounds force instead of newtons) were to blame. This failure led to a shake-up of NASA's 'faster, better, cheaper' approach to unmanned spaceflight. Additional Details: here....
The Mars Polar Lander was placed by the first burn of the second stage into a 157 x 245 km x 28.35 deg parking orbit. The second stage restarted at 20:55 GMT and shut down in a 226 x 740 km x 25.8 deg Earth orbit. The solid rocket third stage (a Star 48B with a Nutation Control System and a yo-yo despin device) then ignited and put the spacecraft into solar orbit, separating at 21:02 GMT. Mars Polar Lander was to land near the south pole of Mars on December 3, 1999, and conduct conduct a three month mission, trenching near its landing site and testing for the presense of frozen water and carbon dioxide. Attached were two Deep Space 2 Microprobes, penetrators which would impact the Martian surface separately from the lander and return data on subsurface conditions from widely spaced points.
When the spacecraft reached Mars on December 3, the lander separated from the cruise stage at 19:51 UTC and the two penetrators, Scott and Amundsen, were to separate about 20 seconds later. No further communications were ever received from the spacecraft. Landing had been expected at 20:01 UTC at 76.1S 195.3W, with the penetrators landing a few kilometres from each other at 75.0S 196.5W.
This failure resulted in a review and reassessment of NASA's 'faster, better, cheaper' approach to planetary missions.
Launch delayed from July 1st. The latest NASA Discovery mission was successfully launched on Jul 3. The CONTOUR (Comet Nucleus Tour) probe, built and operated by the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), began its five year mission to explore three comets, using repeated encounters with the earth to modify its orbit in order to reach each target. The first burn of the second stage completed at 0659 UTC putting the spacecraft in a 185 x 197 km x 29.7 deg parking orbit. At 0746 UTC the second stage restarted for a short 4s burn to 185 x 309 km x 29.7 deg, and then separated once the PAM-D (ATK Star 48B) solid third stage was spun up. The 1.5 minute burn of the third stage motor at 0748 UTC put it and CONTOUR in a 90 x 106689 km x 30.5 deg phasing orbit. By July 8 CONTOUR's orbit was 214 x 106686 km x 29.8 deg. CONTOUR stayed in this phasing orbit until August 15, when it was injected into solar orbit using its internal ATK Star 30 solid motor. Flyby of the first target, comet 2P/Encke, was scheduled for Nov 2003.