• About
  • Advanced Search
  • Browse Proceedings
  • Access Policy
  • Sponsor
  • Contact
  • Development and in-flight performance of the Mariner 9 spacecraft propulsion system

    Paper ID



    • D.D. Evans
    • R.D. Cannova
    • M.J. Cork


    Jet Propulsion Laboratory






    On November 14, 1971, Mariner 9 was decelerated into orbit about Mars by a 1334 N (300 Ibf) liquid bipropellant propulsion system. This paper describes and summarizes the development and in-flight performance of this pressure-fed, nitrogen tetroxide/monomethyl hydrazine bipropellant system. The design of all Mariner propulsion subsystems has been predicted upon the premise that simplicity of approach, coupled with thorough qualification and margin-limits testing, is the key to cost-effective reliability. The Mariner 9 subsystem design illustrates this approach in that little functional redundancy is employed. This paper summarizes the design and test rationale employed in the Mariner 9 design and development program. The qualification test program and analytical modeling are also discussed. Since the propulsion subsystem is modular in nature, it was completely checked, serviced, and tested independent of the spacecraft. Proper prediction of in-flight performance required the development of three significant modeling tools to predict and account for nitrogen saturation of the propellant during the six-month coast period and to predict and statistically analyze in-flight data. The flight performance of the subsystem was excellent, as were the performance prediction correlations. These correlations are presented.