NASA, ULA Targeting NET July 30 for Mars 2020 Launch

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center
More than 10 million names were etched onto a microchip, which was placed aboard Perseverance on March 16, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Due to launch vehicle processing delays in preparation for spacecraft mate operations, NASA and United Launch Alliance have moved the first launch attempt of the Mars 2020 mission to no earlier than July 30. A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate. Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August.

Mars 2020 Mission Now Targeted for July 22 Launch

Mars 2020 Perseverance encapsulation
Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the agency’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is being prepared for encapsulation in the United Launch Alliance Atlas V payload fairing on June 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

NASA and United Launch Alliance are now targeting Wednesday, July 22, for launch of the Mars 2020 mission due to a processing delay encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft. Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern in the ground support lines in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF).

The spacecraft and vehicle remain healthy. The launch of the Mars 2020 mission on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. ET with a two-hour window.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Comes Together for Mars Mission

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover  is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 20, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Continuing on its path to preparation for next month’s launch, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover spacecraft is, well, put together.

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Backshell-Powered Descent Vehicle and Entry Vehicle assemblies are now attached to Perseverance. The cone-shaped backshell contains the parachute, and along with the mission’s heat shield, will provide protection for the rover and descent stage during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Recently, the rover’s ULA Atlas V booster was lifted up in the Vertical Integration Facility at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Mars Perseverance rover is rotated to prepare for the Backshell-Powered Descent Vehicle and Entry Vehicle assemblies to be attached. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Activities have continued to ramp up with the attachment of the four solid rocket boosters (SRBs) one-by-one to the sides of the Atlas V 541 rocket, followed by the Centaur upper stage. The Centaur can control its orientation precisely, while providing up to 22,300 pounds of thrust. The spacecraft will be mated to the Atlas V rocket on June 22.

The assembly, test and launch operations team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers have hit multiple key milestones in the past two months, keeping Perseverance on target for its launch to the Red Planet in mid-July. These include attaching the aeroshell backshell and attaching the rover to its rocket-powered descent stage, rotating and spinning the descent stage on two separate measuring fixtures to pinpoint its center of gravity, and attaching NASA’s Mars Helicopter, recently named Ingenuity, to the belly of the rover.

Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life.

The rover, carrying seven different scientific instruments, will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is scheduled for Monday, July 20, at 9:15 a.m. ET, with a two-hour window. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website.

Kathy Lueders to Helm NASA’s Human Spaceflight Office

NASA's Kathy Lueders participates in a post-launch news conference inside the Press Site auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020, following the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA’s Kathy Lueders participates in a post-launch news conference inside the Press Site auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020, following the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Friday selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency’s next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. Since 2014, Lueders has directed NASA’s efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft, which culminated in the successful launch of Demo-2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30.

Lueders began her NASA career in 1992 at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico where she was the Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System and Reaction Control Systems Depot manager. She later moved to the International Space Station Program and served as transportation integration manager, where she led commercial cargo resupply services to the space station.

She also was responsible for NASA oversight of international partner spacecraft visiting the space station, including the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. She went to Kennedy as acting Commercial Crew Program Manager in 2013 and was selected as the head of the office in 2014.

The appointment takes effect immediately. Steve Stich is named Commercial Crew Program Manager, and Ken Bowersox returns to his role as HEO deputy associate administrator.

Click here for the full story.

Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Pressure Test Article Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

Sierra Nevada Corporations test article inside the SSPF at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Inside the low bay of the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers assist as Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser pressure test article on its support structure is lowered by crane on June 3, 2020, for its move into the high bay. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser pressure test article arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2020, from Louisville, Colorado, and was transported to the high bay in the Space Station Processing Facility.

The test article is similar to the actual pressurized cabin being used in the Dream Chaser spaceplane for Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) missions. NASA selected Dream Chaser to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal service for the International Space Station under the CRS-2 contract.

Under the contract, Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo missions to and from the space station, carrying critical supplies like food, water and science experiments, and return to Earth with a landing at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility, managed by Space Florida.

The pressure test article was used to validate that Dream Chaser can withstand the demands associated with repeated launches and returns from space. SNC designed the Dream Chaser spacecraft to be reusable for as many as 15 missions. The pressure article specifically verified the composite and bonded structure of the spacecraft.

The test article will remain at Kennedy while SNC engineers use it to develop and verify refurbishment operations that will be used on Dream Chaser between flights.

NASA’s Space-X Demo-2 Mission in Progress

Demo-2 liftoff
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Image credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft closes the distance to the International Space Station during docking operations, May 31, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A on Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m. EDT.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named “Endeavour” by its crew, successfully docked at the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31. Upon entering the station, Behnken and Hurley became part of the Expedition 63 crew, joining astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are greeted by Expedition 63 crew members Chris Cassidy, Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin, May 31, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV

The Demo-2 mission is SpaceX’s final test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

For continuing coverage of NASA’s Demo-2 launch, follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation. To look back at launch coverage, visit the agency’s Commercial Crew Program blog at http://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.