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NSSDCA ID: 1996-062A-07

Mission Name: Mars Global Surveyor
Principal Investigator:Dr. Gerald M. Keating


The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft carried an accelerometer instrument designed to measure the change in velocity as the spacecraft performed aerobraking maneuvers in the martian thermosphere. The accelerometer data can be used to deduce atmospheric drag on the spacecraft, so atmospheric densities can be estimated. The z-axis accelerometer is aligned closely to the spacecraft velocity vector. It has a sensitivity of 0.332 mm/s per count, allowing measurements up to at least 170 km altitude. A typical set of accelerometer measurements during aerobraking spanned from about 200 s before periapsis to 200 s after periapsis, about 30 degrees of latitude. Additional measurements obtained before and after this period are used to determine accelerometer bias for each pass. Measurements are obtained every 0.1 s. Accelerations of 1 micro-g were detected.

Alternate Names

  • MarsGlobalSurveyor/Accelerometer
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument:mgs.accel

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Atmospheres
  • Engineering: None assigned

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Gerald M. KeatingPrincipal InvestigatorNASA Langley Research Center

Selected References

  • Keating, G. M., et al., The structure of the upper atmosphere of Mars: In situ accelerometer measurements from Mars Global Surveyor, Science, 279, No. 5357, 1672-1676, doi:10.1126/science.279.5357.1672, Mar. 1998.
  • Tolson, R. L., et al., Application of accelerometer data to Mars Global Surveyor aerobraking operations, J. Spacecr. Rockets, 36, No. 3, 323-329, doi:10.2514/2.3474, May-June 1999.
  • Cancro, G. J., et al., Operational Data Reduction Procedure for Determining Density and Vertical Structure of the Martian Upper Atmosphere From Mars Global Surveyor Accelerometer Measurements, NASA CR-1998-208721, Master's thesis, Joint Inst. for Adv. Flight Stud., George Washington Univ. and NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, 1998.
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