NASA’s InSight Ready for Launch atop Atlas V Rocket

At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the gantry rolls back at Space Launch Complex 3 in preparation for the liftoff of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, Mars lander. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket now is poised to boost the spacecraft with liftoff scheduled for 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT).
At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the gantry rolls back at Space Launch Complex 3 in preparation for the liftoff of NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, Mars lander. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket now is poised to boost the spacecraft with liftoff scheduled for 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT). Photo Credit: NASA/Charles Babir

Good morning, and welcome to launch day for NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight). The first-ever mission to study the heart of Mars, will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Launch is targeted for 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT), at the beginning of a two-hour launch window.

Today’s launch blog originates from the NASA News Center here at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, so event times may be provided in both Eastern and Pacific. Follow the launch countdown and launch at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

Workhorse Rocket to Launch NASA’s InSight Spacecraft on its Mission to Mars

The mobile service tower is rolled back from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's InSight spacecraft at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The mobile service tower is rolled back from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s InSight spacecraft at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: NASA

The rocket standing ready on the pad at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 configuration. It is the workhorse of the Atlas V fleet, delivering about half of all Atlas V missions to date.

The 401 designation means this rocket has a payload fairing, or nose cone, that is approximately four meters wide, a common core booster with no solid rocket boosters, and a Centaur upper stage with a single engine. Booster propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system, a single engine with two thrust chambers. The RD-180 burns Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1), a highly purified kerosene, along with liquid oxygen, providing 860,200 pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The booster is controlled by the Centaur second stage avionics system, which provides guidance, flight control and vehicle sequencing functions during the booster and Centaur phases of flight. The single-engine Centaur upper stage is a cryogenic vehicle, fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The two-piece payload fairing that protects the Insight spacecraft tops the vehicle.

The Atlas V 401 rocket stands 188 feet tall, or about as tall as a 19-story building. Fully stacked, with spacecraft, the rocket weighs about 730,000 pounds, or the equivalent of 14 big rigs fully loaded with cargo.

NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Will Explore Interior of Mars

Artist image of the InSight spacecraft exploring a rocky planet such as Mars.NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) will be the first interplanetary mission to take off from the West Coast. InSight is targeted to launch at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

InSight is a NASA Discovery Program mission that will place a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior. The terrestrial planet explorer will open a window into the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than 4.5 billion years ago. Using sophisticated geophysical instruments, InSight will address fundamental questions about the formation of Earth-like planets by detecting the fingerprints of those processes buried deep within the interior of Mars.

The InSight lander is equipped with two science instruments that will conduct the first “check-up” of Mars, measuring its “pulse,” or internal activity, along with its temperature and “reflexes,” or the way the planet wobbles when it is pulled by the Sun and its moons.

The science payload comprises two instruments: the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), provided by the French Space Agency, with the participation of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Imperial College and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The second instrument, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), is provided by the German Space Agency. Also, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), led by JPL, will use the spacecraft communication system to provide precise measurements of planetary rotation.

InSight’s lander will spend two years investigating the deep interior of Mars. For more information visit the InSight mission overview.

InSight NASA EDGE Live Webcast, Live Launch Coverage

Watch the NASA EDGE live webcast on NASA TV and social media at:
NASA TV: www.nasa.gov/nasalive
NASA EDGE Facebook: www.facebook.com/nasaedgefan
NASA EDGE YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/NASAedge
NASA EDGE Ustream: www.ustream.tv/nasaedge

Guests:
Jim Green, chief scientist, NASA
Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL
Suzanne Smrekar, InSight deputy principal investigator at JPL
Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL
Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, Mars InSight instrumentation deployment lead engineer at JPL
Joel Steinkraus, MarCO mechanical lead at JPL
Anne Marinan, MarCO systems engineer at JPL
Mic Woltman, chief, Fleet Systems Integration Branch, NASA’s Launch Services Program

InSight Live Launch Coverage on NASA TV, May 5, 6:30 a.m. ET (3:30 a.m. PT)  

Watch the InSight live launch coverage on NASA TV at: www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

NASA’s next mission to Mars – the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport spacecraft (InSight) – is scheduled to launch as early as Saturday, May 5, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight’s liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 is targeted for 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) at the opening of a two-hour launch window, making it also the first interplanetary mission to take off from the West Coast.

This is the third mission in the robust schedule for NASA’s Launch Services Program this year, launching six missions in just six months, with six different rocket configurations, from six launch sites.

InSight Teams Proceed Toward Launch May 5

 

NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) Mars Lander is transported to Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The InSight mission and launch teams today concluded a successful Launch Readiness Review. There are no technical issues being worked at this time. Teams are proceeding for liftoff on Saturday, May 5, at 4:05 a.m. PDT/7:05 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) spacecraft. The launch will be the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast.

A marine layer fog is expected over the launch pad and will reduce visibility on launch day to 3/4 – 1 1/2 miles. This Range Safety constraint of launch visibility is the only area of concern. The 30th Space Wing weather officer indicated the launch visibility requirement may be waived by Range Safety pending confirmation that all ground telemetry systems are operational during the countdown.

All other range safety constraints have a zero probability of violation.

InSight Prelaunch Briefing Live Today, May 3

Artist image of the InSight spacecraft exploring a rocky planet such as Mars.With only two days remaining until the scheduled launch of NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft, launch and mission managers will hold a prelaunch briefing today, May 3, at 4 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. PDT) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Watch the InSight Prelaunch Briefing live on NASA TV at www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

Prelaunch briefing participants are:

  • Jim Green, chief scientist, NASA
  • Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at JPL
  • Annick Sylvestre-Baron, deputy project manager for the InSight seismometer investigation at France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales
  • Philippe Lognonné, InSight seismometer investigation lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France
  • Tilman Spohn, investigation lead at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3), an instrument on InSight
  • Andrew Klesh, MarCO chief engineer at JPL
  • Anne Marinan, MarCO systems engineer at JPL
  • Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems
  • Tim Dunn, launch director with NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Scott Messer, ULA program manager for NASA launches
  • Michael Hough, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg
  • 1st Lt. Kristina Williams, weather officer for the 30th Space Wing

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing predict a 20 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s InSight spacecraft. The overall probability of violation will be 80 percent with the Range Safety constraint of launch visibility being the only area of concern. Launch is scheduled for Saturday, May 5 at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California.

Launch Weather 20 Percent ‘Go’ For Saturday

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing predict a 20 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft. The overall probability of violation will be 80 percent with the Range Safety constraint of launch visibility being the only area of concern.

The InSight launch is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, at 4:05 a.m. PDT/7:05 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California.