The $54 million Lockheed Martin Mars Global Surveyor is the first in a planned series of orbiters and landers that will be dispatched to Mars during each two-year launch window, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004. The Mars Global Surveyor is basically a reflight of six of the eight experiments lost when the Mars Observer failed to enter orbit.

The 670kg craft will take ten months to reach Mars and will be inserted into an elliptical capture orbit, with a high point of 56,660km and a low point of 110km. This will be circularised at 450km over the poles using thruster firings and an aero-braking technique, which will create a controlled atmospheric drag to decrease orbital speed and, therefore, its parameters. The craft's science instruments will be used to survey topography, magnetism, mineral composition and atmosphere.

Source: Flight International