Traffic Jam at Mars

An international flotilla of new spacecraft — orbiters and landers — is slated to arrive at Mars in 2021, creating an unprecedented telecommunications challenge for NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN).

These spacecraft all need to communicate with Earth en route to Mars, requiring large amounts of telemetry and tracking after launch and then on approach to the red planet. The sheer number of Mars-bound craft, launched by multiple nations, may stress NASA’s ground tracking network and capabilities of international partners.

Outbound traffic

That list of Mars missions launching in 2020 is long. It includes NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2020 rover and surface platform, China’s orbiter/lander/rover, the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission-2. In addition, SpaceX is planning its first Red Dragon Mars lander in 2020, having delayed the mission from 2018.