The Radio Frequency Subsystem and Radio Science on the MESSENGER Mission
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The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) Radio Frequency (RF) Telecommunications Subsystem is used to send commands to the spacecraft, transmit information on the state of the spacecraft and science-related observations, and assist in navigating the spacecraft to and in orbit about Mercury by providing precise observations of the spacecraft’s Doppler velocity and range in the line of sight to Earth. The RF signal is transmitted and received at X-band frequencies (7.2 GHz uplink, 8.4 GHz downlink) by the NASA Deep Space Network. The tracking data from MESSENGER will contribute significantly to achieving the mission’s geophysics objectives. The RF subsystem, as the radio science instrument, will help determine Mercury’s gravitational field and, in conjunction with the Mercury Laser Altimeter instrument, help determine the topography of the planet. Further analysis of the data will improve the knowledge of the planet’s orbital ephemeris and rotation state. The rotational state determination includes refined measurements of the obliquity and forced physical libration, which are necessary to characterize Mercury’s core state.
KeywordsMESSENGER Mercury Telecommunications system Radio science Gravity science Spacecraft tracking Gravitational field
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