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Fewer Than One Thousand Days Until MAVEN Launches

February 25, 2011

IUVS instrument boardIUVS instrument board and chassis

An Engineering Model electronics board from the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer (IUVS) experiment is shown separately (top) and mounted inside the electronics housing chassis (bottom). Tools on the workbench show scale.

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the MAVEN countdown passed 1000 days on its trek toward zero.  That means we are 2 years, 8 months, and 24 days to launch.  In that remaining time, we have to complete building the engineering model hardware (to test out the instruments and key components), complete the final design of all of the hardware and of the Ground Data System, build the final instruments and spacecraft components, assemble them into a complete spacecraft, test it in all of the environments in which it will fly, stack it on the launch vehicle, and then launch.

The team of scientists, engineers, managers, and administrators working on MAVEN currently numbers close to 500 individuals, working at all of the MAVEN institutions around the country.  (This estimate is “counting noses” of people working on the project.  It’s equivalent to roughly 250 “full-time-equivalent” people, adding up the total work hours.)  The management procedures that seemed to be more involved than we needed when we put them in place a few years ago are now showing their value – there is much more activity taking place than any individual can keep track of.  In addition, the team has become large enough, and the efforts complex enough, that we need a very formal system of tracking issues, risks, requirements, and progress.  Without it, there would be no way to ensure that everything was getting done, was being done right, and would be ready when it was needed.

It’s exciting to see the Engineering Model components come together.  They’re almost identical to the flight components (except, in some cases, for the quality of the parts), and they show that MAVEN will be able to make the measurements necessary to achieve its science goals.

At the same time, issues are beginning to crop up around the project, but they’re not outside the range of what would be expected on a project like this.  Our success will depend not on making sure problems don’t occur, but on making sure that we can find them and fix them in a timely manner.

Our next milestone is the Critical Design Review.  As with the Preliminary Design Review, this is actually a series of separate reviews of the individual components, leading up to a review of the entire system in July.  After that, building of the flight hardware will take place in earnest, and the days on the calendar will begin to really fly by!

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