Small Satellites to Study Martian Atmosphere

The twin EscaPADE satellites will fly to Mars and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (Credit: UC Berkeley/Robert Lillis)

Escape and Plasma Acceleration
and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE)

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)


This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun.

The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.


Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

EscaPADE will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.