The Magellan Mission
The Magellan spacecraft orbited Venus from August 10, 1990, until it plunged into the Venusian atmosphere on October 12, 1994. Magellan Mission objectives included: (1) improving knowledge of the geological processes, surface properties, and geologic history of Venus by analysis of surface radar characteristics, topography, and morphology, and (2) improving the knowledge of the geophysics of Venus by analysis of Venusian gravity.
The Magellan spacecraft carried a 12.6-cm radar system to map the surface of Venus. The transmitter and receiver systems were used to collect three data sets: (1) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of the surface, (2) passive microwave thermal emission observations, and (3) measurements of the backscattered power at small angles of incidence, which were processed to yield altimetric data. Radar imaging, altimetric, and radiometric mapping of the Venusian surface was done in mission cycles 1, 2, and 3 from September 1990 until September 1992. Ninety-eight percent of the surface was mapped with radar resolution on the order of 120 meters. The SAR observations were projected to a 75-m nominal horizontal resolution, and these full-resolution data compose the image base used in geologic mapping. The primary polarization mode was horizontal-transmit, horizontal-receive (HH), but additional data for selected areas were collected for the vertical polarization sense. Incidence angles varied between about 20? and 45?.
High resolution Doppler tracking of the spacecraft took place from September 1992 through October 1994 (mission cycles 4, 5, 6). Approximately 950 orbits of high-resolution gravity observations were obtained between September 1992 and May 1993 while Magellan was in an elliptical orbit with a periapsis near 175 km and an apoapsis near 8,000 km. An additional 1,500 orbits were obtained following orbit-circularization in mid-1993. These data exist as a 75? by 75? harmonic field.