NASA’s Perseverance Rover Ready for its Ride to Mars

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) payload fairing with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover secured inside is positioned on top of the ULA Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) payload fairing with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover secured inside is positioned on top of the ULA Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is now attached to the rocket that will carry it on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet for the agency’s Mars 2020 mission.

On Tuesday, July 7, a team of engineers fastened the payload fairing, containing the rover and remainder of the spacecraft – the aeroshell backshell, descent stage and cruise stage – to a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster inside the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The rocket’s upper stage and spacecraft will remain attached until about 55 minutes after launch, after which the two will separate, sending Perseverance on its solo journey to Mars.

With the spacecraft and booster now connected, final testing of the two – separately and together as one unit – can begin. Once those tests are complete, the rocket will leave the VIF on the morning of July 28 for its journey to the launch pad – just 1,800 feet away.

NASA and United Launch Alliance are now targeting Thurs., July 30, at 7:50 a.m. ET, with a two-hour window, for launch of the Mars 2020 mission. The team identified the cause of the issue with the liquid oxygen sensor line found during Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR). A small leak was located in the weld of the line, which has been repaired and tested.

The rover, carrying seven different scientific instruments, is slated to arrive at the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, regardless of what day it lifts off during the launch period. During its time on Mars, Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life and collect rock and soil samples of the Martian surface for future return to Earth.

The mission, managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), will provide key insight into some of the challenges associated with future human exploration of Mars. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center is managing the launch.

For more information, visit the mission website.

NASA Pins Down First Step in SLS Stacking for Artemis I

Inside the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Payton Jones, at left, a launch vehicle processing technician, and Bradley Bundy, a spaceflight technician, both with Jacobs, complete the first mate pinning of the right-hand motor segment to the right-hand aft skirt on one of the two solid rocket boosters for the agency’s Space Launch System.
Inside the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Payton Jones, at left, a launch vehicle processing technician, and Bradley Bundy, a spaceflight technician, both with Jacobs, complete the first mate pinning of the right-hand motor segment to the right-hand aft skirt on one of the two solid rocket boosters for the agency’s Space Launch System. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

About a dozen technicians and engineers from Exploration Ground Systems worked together recently at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to carry out the first step in stacking the twin solid rocket boosters that help launch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the first Artemis lunar mission

Inside the Florida spaceport’s Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility, the NASA and Jacobs team completed a pin. The pinning activity involved using bolts to attach one of five segments that make up one of two solid rocket boosters for SLS to the rocket’s aft skirt. A crane crew assisted in mating the aft segments to the rocket’s two aft skirts.

Inside the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Pablo Martinez, a handling, mechanical and structures engineer on the Jacobs Technology Inc. Test and Operations Support Contract, prepares to insert the first of many pins that will secure the Space Launch System’s right-hand motor segment to the rocket’s right-hand aft skirt.
Inside the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Pablo Martinez, a handling, mechanical and structures engineer on the Jacobs Technology Inc. Test and Operations Support Contract, prepares to insert the first of many pins that will secure the Space Launch System’s right-hand motor segment to the rocket’s right-hand aft skirt. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A handful of the team members gained pinning experience on boosters for the space shuttle, while the rest were first-time pinners. Pablo Martinez, Jacobs TOSC handling, mechanical and structures engineer, inserted the first of 177 pins per joint to complete the first official step in stacking the SLS boosters.

The next step is a move to Kennedy’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building to await stacking on the mobile launcher.

Manufactured by Northrop Grumman in Utah, the 177-foot-tall twin boosters provide more than 75 percent of the total SLS thrust at launch. SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built.

The SLS rocket will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and send it to the Moon for Artemis I — a mission to test the two as an integrated system, leading up to human missions to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

View a video of booster segment mate pinning.

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, SpaceX Successfully Launch Demo-2 Mission

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 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 Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. EDT.

Behnken and Hurley are on their way to the International Space Station, where they will become part of the Expedition 63 crew, joining astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin.

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.

NASA, SpaceX Prepare for Second Attempt at Historic Demo-2 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 p.m. today, carrying American NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Live coverage of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch activities has begun. The broadcast started at 11 a.m., and will continue leading up to liftoff and through arrival at the space station at 10:29 a.m. on Sunday, May 31. Watch it on NASA Television and online at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida this afternoon, carrying American NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. Launch is targeted for 3:22 p.m. EDT. The launch window is instantaneous.

According to the latest report from the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, the probability of violating weather restraints remains at 50%. Primary concerns are flight through precipitation, anvil cloud rule and cumulus cloud rule.

This will be 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 with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program blog at http://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.

NASA and SpaceX Leaders Continue to Monitor Weather for Tomorrow’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch

Agency leaders hold a press briefing on May 29, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch, now scheduled for Saturday, May 30.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him are Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana (far left), NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Nicole Mann, and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard (far right). The launch, initially scheduled for May 27, was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The next launch attempt is Saturday, May 30. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Weather is one thing everyone has been keeping a close eye on ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The first launch attempt on May 27 was rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions around Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With the launch now targeted for 3:22 p.m. EDT tomorrow, May 30, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine remains hopeful for tomorrow’s launch, but stressed the importance protecting the test flight crew members, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

“Our highest priority is and always has been Bob and Doug. And of course, a couple of days ago, we had too much electricity in the atmosphere,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a press briefing at Kennedy on May 29. “This is certain though: We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and we will do it with the absolute priority being the safety of our astronauts.

“The president and vice president were proud of the NASA team and the SpaceX team for making the right call for the right reasons. When we do this again Saturday, if we do this again Sunday, we will feel no pressure. We will go when we are ready.”

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him is NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for tomorrow’s launch, with the primary concerns for launch revolving around flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a Soyuz rocket in 2015, also participated in the press briefing, touching on his own experience with delayed launches.

“You certainly get excited about the launch; you’re prepared, your mindset is such that you’re ready to fly, and certainly Bob and Doug were ready to do that on Wednesday,” he said. “The scrub, the delay, just represents an opportunity for the team to learn and is an opportunity for them to reunite with their families. I know they’re spending time with their families and enjoying this little bit of time before they get ready to fly again.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying Behnken and Hurley to the space station to join astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – the Expedition 63 crew members already onboard – making this the first launch of NASA astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with partners SpaceX and Boeing to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at Kennedy ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him is NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“I can’t tell you what it’s going to mean to me to see a U.S. rocket launching crews again off that pad out there,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “We went to the Moon from that pad; I launched three times off that pad. To see Bob and Doug launch off it, and then to get Boeing launching, we are on the verge of a new era in human spaceflight. This is just the beginning; it’s only going to get better.”

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 will be the company’s final flight test, providing critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule, as well as the ground systems at the launch pad that will be supporting the launch. NASA and SpaceX teams will review data from all stages of launch, from liftoff to in-orbit, docking and landing operations – all paving the way for the agency to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory.

“What Elon Musk has done for the American space program is, he has brought vision and inspiration that we hadn’t had since the retirement of the space shuttles,” said Bridenstine. “When I talk to him, when I meet with him, he gives me a commitment and he delivers on that commitment. That has happened every single time.”

“We started out as a partnership, and in many respects, it’s become a friendship,” added NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30, NASA and SpaceX will provide coverage of launch activities, airing on NASA TV and the agency’s website. This will include live shots of Behnken and Hurley as they put on their spacesuits, their arrival at historic Launch Complex 39A and liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket. Coverage will continue through Crew Dragon’s docking to the space station, scheduled for 10:29 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 31.