Mars Climate Orbiter Team Magna Corp

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Mars Climate Orbiter

  • Team Magna Corp:

  • Tim Toba

  • Mohamed Sahil

  • Nyema Johnson

  • Abner Yemaneab


  • Team Magna Corp.

  • Introduction – Mohamed Sahil

  • Scope – Mohamed Sahil

  • Time Management – Abner Yemaneab

  • Cost Management – Nyema Johnson

  • Project Management – Tim Toba

  • Questions?


  • NASA started Mars Surveyor Program in 1993.

  • Mars Climate Orbiter was launched on Dec. 11, 1998.

  • Mars Polar Lander was launched on Jan. 3, 1999.

Scope Management of the Mars Climate Orbiter


  • Develop and launch two spacecrafts to Mars during the 1998 Mars transfer opportunity.

  • Development cost was estimated at $183.9 Million.

  • Collect and return to Earth, science data resulting from the water and remote investigations of the Martian environment by the Lander.


  • Orbiter should act as a

  • relay station for five years.

  • Assist in data transmission

  • to and from the Mars Polar

  • Lander.

  • Provide detailed information about the atmospheric temperature, dust, water vapor, and clouds on Mars.

  • Provide valuable information about the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Mars.



  • A second spacecraft Mars

  • Polar Lander will be

  • launched.

  • Perform daily recording of the

  • sound and images of Mars for one Martian year (687 days).

  • The Purpose of the mission is to gather atmospheric data of each of the seasons on Mars.

  • The mission's projected end date is December 1, 2004.


Time Management of the Mars Climate Orbiter

  • Feb 7, 1994: Program Started.

  • May 1, 1995: Project Manager Named.

    • JPL names John B. McNamee manager of the newly-formed Mars Surveyor '98 Project.
  • May 8, 1995: Instrument Proposals Solicited.

  • Oct 20, 1995: Instruments Selected.

  • Dec 1, 1995: Project Scientist Named.

    • Richard Zurek
  • Jan 4, 1997: Orbiter Design Reviewed.

  • Aug 1, 1997 - Sep 30, 1998: Orbiter Assembled and Tested.

  • Feb 1, 1998: Lander and Orbiter Renamed.

  • Dec 11, 1998: Orbiter Launched.

Dec 11, 1998: Lander Leaves Earth.

  • Dec 11, 1998: Lander Leaves Earth.

  • Dec 11, 1998 - Sept 11, 1999: Mars Orbiter Interplanetary Cruise.

  • Feb 3, 1999: New Management.

    • Richard A. Cook is the MSOP project manager.
  • September 1999, the spacecraft was to fire its main engine to achieve an elliptical orbit around Mars.

  • Sept. 23, 1999: The Mars Climate Orbiter mission was lost when it entered the Martian atmosphere on a lower than expected trajectory.

Faster, Better, Cheaper

  • Costs were reduced and program scope — including both content and the infusion of new technology — increased at the same time.

  • The the focus on cost and schedule reduction increased risk beyond acceptable levels on some NASA projects.

Mission Success First

  • Schedule Recommendations:

  • Number One Priority Should be Mission Success over Cost and Schedule.

  • “bottoms up” budget and schedule should be developed.

  • The team should take ownership of the schedule

  • There should be adequate schedule slack available to solve problems.

  • Check if mission success has been compromised as a result of schedule?

Cost Management of the Mars Climate Orbiter


  • A total of $327.6 million was allocated for the Mars ’98 Project (which included the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander)

  • $80M of the $193.1M went toward the building of the MCO spacecraft

  • $5M of the $42.8M used to operations the MCO


Project Management of the Mars Climate Orbiter

Project Management

  • JPL/Mr. John McNamee

  • Project Manager for MCO and MPL

  • HQ/SD/Mr. Steven Brody

  • MCO Program Executive

  • NASA Headquarters

  • MSFC/DA01/Mr. Drew Smith

  • Special Assistant to Center Director

  • George C. Marshall Space Flight Center

  • HQ/SR/Dr. Charles Holmes

  • Program Executive for Science Operations

  • NASA Headquarters

  • HQ/QE/Mr. Michael Card

  • Program Manager

  • NASA Headquarters

Project Management

  • Existing Processes and Requirements

  • NASA has significant infrastructure of processes and requirements in place to enable robust program and project management, beginning with the capstone document:

  • NASA Procedures and Guidelines 7120.5.

  • Many of these clearly have a direct bearing on mission success.

Project Management

  • So What Went Wrong?

  • Heart of Mission’s Navigation Mishap

  • Due to a conversion error in which commands to the spacecraft were sent in English units rather than metric units

  • Unofficially, the problem had been detected but due to politics between the development team and JPL, a fix was never deployed

Project Management

  • The official report cited the following “contributing factors” to the loss of the spacecraft

    • undetected errors in ground-based models of the spacecraft the
    • operational navigational team was not fully informed on the details of the way that Mars Climate Orbiter was pointed in space
    • a final, optional engine firing to raise the spacecraft’s path
    • relative to Mars before its arrival was considered but not performed

Project Management

  • Summary

    • One Technical Problem
        • failed conversion of unit
    • Many Process and Social Problems
        • No review (e.g. verification), insufficient training, informal processes in place, formal processes ignored
    • Led to a destroyed spacecraft

Questions ?






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