NASA has selected five U.S. aerospace companies to conduct concept studies for a potential future Mars orbiter mission. The companies contracted for the four-month studies include The Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Orbital ATK and Space Systems/Loral. The goal of the orbiter mission is to continue telecommunications and global high-resolution imaging in support of the agency's “Journey to Mars” project, which aims to send humans to the second-smallest planet in the solar system in the 2030s. The studies will address how a potential new Mars orbiter mission could best provide communications, imaging and operational capabilities. They also will assess the possibilities for supporting additional scientific instruments and functionalities, in addition to optical communications. The orbiter concept under study would use solar electric propulsion to provide flexible launch, mission and orbit capabilities. Robotic spacecraft include two active rovers, three active orbiters, the planned launch of the InSight lander in 2018 and development of the Mars 2020 rover. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is managing the concept studies under the direction of the agency's Mars Exploration Program.