Examples of Operations Activities at Malin Space Science Systems

Malin Space Science Systems offers and provides tactical and strategic operation of government and commercial space flight instruments at its San Diego, California facility.

Collectively, the MSSS staff has over a hundred years of experience with operating deep space flight instruments, particularly imaging systems. Cross-trained for spacecraft instrument uplink, downlink, and data archiving activities—and working closely with spacecraft engineers and instrument research scientists—the MSSS operations team is thorough, reliable, effective, and efficient. The team has imaged more than half of Mars at an unprecedented 6 meters per pixel resolution and they have validated and archived hundreds of thousands of images since the 1990s.

MSSS operations experience includes:

  • Ground Data System (GDS) design, development, custom software production, implementation, and maintenance.

  • Monitoring of the health and safety of cameras operating in deep space.

  • Planning, commanding, retrieving, and processing of data from cameras operating in deep space.

  • Data validation and public archiving of space camera data (e.g., with the NASA Planetary Data System, PDS).

MSSS has conducted long-term operations for the following NASA space camera systems:

  • Mars Global Surveyor’s Mars Orbiter Camera  (1996–2006)

  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Color Imager (2005–Present)

  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Context Camera (2005–Present)

MSSS personnel have also contributed to the Mars Exploration Rover effort (Spirit and Opportunity; 2003–Present), first by relaying data from the rovers to Earth through the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera and then through contributions to the tactical commanding and operation of the rover Microscopic Imagers and Engineering Cameras.

MSSS is currently preparing to operate these additional space camera systems:

  • Mars Science Laboratory’s (Curiosity Rover) Mast Cameras

  • Mars Science Laboratory’s (Curiosity Rover) Mars Hand Lens Imager

  • Mars Science Laboratory’s (Curiosity Rover) Mars Descent Imager

  • Juno’s (Jupiter orbiter) Junocam

The Curiosity Mars rover and Juno Jupiter orbiter are both launching in 2011. Curiosity lands on Mars in 2012 and Juno arrives in 2016.

In addition, MSSS conducted interplanetary cruise phase operations for the following space cameras:

  • Mars Observer’s Mars Observer Camera (1992–1993)

  • Mars Climate Orbiter’s Mars Color Imager (1998–1999)

  • Mars Polar Lander’s Mars Descent Imager (1999)

MSSS also prepared to operate the Phoenix Mars Descent Imager (2007–2008) but NASA decided not to operate this camera owing to technical concerns on the spacecraft side of the interface. The MSSS operations team did, however, command usage of the camera's onboard microphone late in the Phoenix mission, but the data return was unsuccessful.