Template:Infobox spaceflight

The Mars 2022 orbiter (Next Mars Orbiter, or NeMO) is a proposed NASA Mars communications satellite with high-resolution imaging payload and two solar-electric NEXT-C ion thrusters.[1][2]

The orbiter is proposed to be launched in September 2022 to link ground controllers with rovers and landers and extend mapping capabilities expected to be lost when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and 2001 Mars Odyssey stop functioning.[3][1]


HallThruster 2

2 kW Hall thruster in operation as part of the Hall Thruster Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Key features under study include solar electric ion drive engines using Hall effect, better solar arrays, and broadband laser communications (optic communication) between Earth and Mars.[1][2][4]

The orbiter is conceptually similar to the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter, canceled in 2005,[2] and could be a technology precursor for a future round-trip sample return mission and human expeditions to Mars.[1][5] Robert Lock is leading the concept studies for the 2022 orbiter.[1][5]

Concern in NASA is that the currently used relay satellites, 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, may stop functioning, resulting in the need to press the MAVEN science orbiter into use as a backup telecommunications relay.[1][2][6] However, the highly elliptical orbit of MAVEN will limit its usefulness as a relay for surface operations.[7][8]

Another suggested feature under study is "the sample rendezvous capture and return capability." The samples cached by the Mars 2020 rover would be placed in Mars orbit by a future Mars ascent vehicle. From there the orbiter would send the samples back to Earth.[9]


The orbiter would be propelled with two solar-electric NEXT-C ion thrusters; one engine would be active while the other one would be a spare.[3] Electrical power to the engines would be provided by advanced solar arrays that generate 20 kW.[3]

An ion engine would give the spacecraft significant orbital flexibility for long-term support of future missions,[3] opportunistic flybys of Phobos and Deimos,[3] as well as the added capability of orbit support—rendezvous and capture—for a sample return mission.[3] An ion engine would also allow access to multiple latitudes and altitudes to optimize relay contacts.

Proposed payloadEdit

  • High resolution imager (30 cm/pixel)
  • Potential for additional instruments from international partners
  • Potential for rendezvous and capture payload
  • Broadband laser communications (optic communication) between Earth and Mars[1][2][4]


NASA considers the Mars 2022 orbiter an "essential orbital support for sample return", "significant" in maintaining the Martian communications infrastructure, and desirable for the continuity in remote sensing.[10] The President's FY2017 Budget provides $10 million to begin early work on the future Mars orbiter.[10][11] In June 2016, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will start awarding several $400,000 sub-contracts for research and development of the concept.[3]

See alsoEdit



Template:Future spaceflights

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