The Magellan spacecraft orbited Venus from August 10, 1990, until it plunged into the Venusian atmosphereon October 12, 1994. Magellan had the objectives of: (1) improving knowledge of the geologic processes, surface properties, and geologic history of Venus by analysis of surface radar characteristics, topography, and morphology and (2) improving 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 datasets: synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of the surface, passive microwave thermal emission observations, and measurements of the backscattered power at small angles of incidence, which were processed to yield altimetric data. Radar imaging and altimetric and radiometric mapping of the Venusian surface were done in mission cycles 1, 2, and 3, from September 1990 until September of 1992.
Ninety-eight percent of the surface was mapped with radar resolution of approximately 120 meters. The SAR observations were projected to a 75-m nominal horizontal resolution; 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 from about 20? to 45?.
High-resolution Doppler tracking of the spacecraft was done from September 1992 through October 1994 (mission cycles 4, 5, 6). High-resolution gravity observations from about 950 orbits were obtained between September 1992 and May 1993, while Magellan was in an elliptical orbit with a periapsis near 175 kilometers and an apoapsis near 8,000 kilometers. Observations from an additional 1,500 orbits were obtained following orbit-circularization in mid-1993. These data exist as a 75? by 75? harmonic field.