This update sent in earlier today by ESA's Simon Wood, one of the engineers working on the Mars Express mission operations team at ESOC.
Today, ESA's Mars Express orbiter will send telecommands to NASA's Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.
The transmission is part of a routine quarterly test of the communications link between MEX and Curiosity – NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Aside from its prime science mission, Mars Express is able to provide contingency communications with MSL (or with any NASA rovers or orbiters) in case of any problems with the normal data relay links.
This particular test consists of MEX hailing MSL, then forwarding commands provided by the MSL team at NASA/JPL to the rover and then recording data transmitted back.
- End December-2104 – Pointing of MEX's UHF (ultra high-frequency) antenna at MSL scheduled in the MEX mission planning system
- Last week Feb 2015 – Command file (i.e. the telecommands to be transmitted) provided by the MSL team to the MEX flight control team at ESOC.
- Commanding products for MEX UHF antenna were generated on 24 February and uploaded to MEX on 27 February
Operations timeline today
All times UTC
14:29 MEX will slew from Earth pointing to pointing its UHF antenna at MSL on the surface
14:41 MEX UHF antenna switches on – takes 15 mins to warm up
14:56 Overflight begins with MEX hailing MSL; overflight lasts 9 mins
15:05 MEX begins to slew back toward Earth pointing
Data received from MSL will be transmitted back to Earth by MEX at around 16:30 UTC via ESA's deep-space ESTRACK station in Malargüe, Argentina.
Later, NASA's deep-space network teams will extract the data from the MEX packet archive and pass this on the the MSL team for analysis.
Best regards from the MEX control team at ESOC!
Source: Mars Express blog