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The initial ideas for this project arose more than 10 years ago and the basis and goals were defined for this first private mission to Mars. The satellite structure of AMSAT Oscar-40, successfully launched in 2000, will serve as the spacecraft

The AMSAT Mars probe with the working designation “GO-Mars/P5A” has the following tasks

  • As a radio relay it will orbit Mars and transmit research data from devices on the Mars surface to Earth.
  • Using a planetary observation camera it will take pictures of the Mars surface and of outer space.
  • From its orbit the AMSAT probe can carry out scientific experiments.
  • Even spacecraft for landing or secondary satellites can be taken along.
  • The mission can be useful for educational purposes.
  • During the flight to Mars, numerous new spaceflight and communications technologies can be evaluated.

The remarkable aspect of this Mars mission is the private and predominantly honorary construction and operation of the probe. Thanks to the radio communication on amateur radio frequencies, reception is generally allowed without restriction. Using personal receiving equipment or over the Internet, pictures and data can be displayed live on a personal computer running suitable software.

An essential technical as well as financial element of the Mars mission is the ground station for supervising and controlling the probe. The 20 meter parabolic antenna at the Bochum observatory (IUZ) has already been reactivated and is now available for the mission. The facility has already proven its capability through the reception of NASA and ESA probes like Mars Express, the Saturn probe Cassini and the comet probe Rosetta. In the spring of 2006 a team from AMSAT-DL even received signals from the American space probe Voyager 1 at a total distance of approximately 14.7 billion kilometers.

Following preliminary work the formal go-ahead was given in 2002 by AMSAT-DL for the P5A Mars probe. It should begin its nine-month journey during launch windows in 2016. Before then AMSAT-DL will launch the P3E communications satellite with many test elements for the Mars mission. The following components of the P3E mission are critical in relation to the Mars mission:

  • A coherent transponder for communications between Mars and Earth and the precise measurement of the distance to the probe,
  • An ultra-stable oscillator as a high-precision frequency standard for the onboard computer and radio systems,
  • A star navigation camera for a precise determination of location and orientation in space,
  • The IHU3 onboard computer designed with DSP functionality for data transmission and analysis.

The planned date for launch of the test satellite is 2012-2016.

Links/References: AMSAT-Deutschland e.V.
GO-Mars P5A-Mission
IUZ, Observatory Bochum

Logo of the P5A Marsmission

Project leader Professor Dr. Karl Meinzer and AMSAT President Peter Gülzow during inspection of the AMSAT satellite P3D. Its technology forms the basis for the Mars flight.

20-m Antenna of the IUZ in Bochum

Flight path of the P5A satellite

© 2006, AMSAT-DL Imprint