SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Rolls to Pad with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich rolls out to the launch pad.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite atop in its payload fairing rolls out to Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside the payload fairing, rolls to Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020.

Stay tuned for launch coverage of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite today here on the NASA blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST).

Tune in Tomorrow for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch Coverage

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich stickerTune in tomorrow, Nov. 21, for launch coverage of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite here on the NASA blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST). Rollout of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was completed this afternoon.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ‘Go’ For Launch, Prelaunch News Conference at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST)

The Sentinel-6 satellite in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing.
An animated image of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload fairing at the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: NASA

Launch and mission managers have completed the Launch Readiness Review for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission. At the conclusion of the review, NASA’s Launch Services Program, SpaceX, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NOAA agreed to target the launch for 9:17 PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Saturday, Nov. 21, from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Currently, the 30th Space Wing weather forecast is 80% “go” for launch, with a 20% chance of violating weather constraints. The primary concern is ground winds of 20 knots at the time of launch.

A prelaunch news conference will be held at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST), live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ
  • Johann-Dietrich Worner, Director-General, European Space Agency
  • Pierrik Vuilleumier, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, ESA
  • Parag Vaze, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, JPL
  • Tim Dunn, NASA Launch Director, Launch Services Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
  • Julianna Scheiman, program manager, NASA Launch Services, SpaceX
  • Anthony Mastalir, commander, 30th Space Wing and Western Launch and Test Range
  • John Ott, weather officer, 30th Space Wing

NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST) on Nov. 21. You can follow the countdown milestones here on the blog and on NASA Television.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA@NASAEarth@NASA_JPL@NASASocial@ESA@ESA_EO@EU_Commission@NOAA@CNES@Eumetsat@CopernicusEU@defis_eu  @SpaceX@NASA_LSP@NASA36030thSpaceWing
Facebook: NASANASA JPLNASA EarthNASA LSP30thSpaceWing
Instagram: NASANASAJPLNASAEarthVandenberg_AFB

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launch Readiness Review, Televised Briefings on Tap Today

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission patch Today, launch and mission managers are holding the final major review, called the Launch Readiness Review, for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission that will launch from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Launch is targeted for 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Coming up today at 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST) is a science briefing, live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Karen St. Germain, director, NASA Earth Science Division, NASA HQ
  • Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project scientist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (remote)
  • Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6 mission scientist, European Space Agency (remote)
  • Remko Scharroo, programme scientist for Sentinel-6 EUMESTAT (remote)
  • Deirdre Byrne, oceanographer, NOAA (remote)
  • Luanne Thompson, Walters Professor of Oceanography, University of Washington (remote)

A prelaunch news conference will be held today at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST), live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Participants are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ
  • Johann-Dietrich Worner, Director-General, European Space Agency
  • Pierrik Vuilleumier, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, European Space Agency
  • Parag Vaze, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich project manager, JPL
  • Tim Dunn, NASA Launch Director, Launch Services Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
  • Julianna Scheiman, program manager, NASA Launch Services, SpaceX
  • Anthony Mastalir, commander, 30th Space Wing and Western Launch and Test Range
  • John Ott, weather officer, 30th Space Wing

NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST) on Nov. 21.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/sentinel-6.

Learn more about NASA’s Launch Services Program at: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/index.html.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #SeeingTheSeas and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA@NASAEarth@NASA_JPL@NASASocial@ESA@ESA_EO@EU_Commission@NOAA@CNES@Eumetsat@CopernicusEU@defis_eu  @SpaceX@NASA_LSP@NASA36030thSpaceWing
Facebook: NASANASA JPLNASA EarthNASA LSP30thSpaceWing
Instagram: NASANASAJPLNASAEarthVandenberg_AFB

Sentinel-6 Satellite Arrives at Vandenberg for Preflight Checkout

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 24, 2020, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 24, 2020, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, secured inside a shipping container, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday, Sept. 24, aboard an Antonov cargo aircraft. It was offloaded from the aircraft and moved to the SpaceX Payload Processing Facility for checkout and preflight processing.

The mission is an international partnership and the first launch of a constellation of two satellites that will observe changes in Earth’s sea levels for at least the next decade. Launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is targeted to lift off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 on Nov. 10, 2020.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages NASA’s contribution to the mission. The Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

Kennedy Engineers Play Major Role in Mars 2020 Mission Success

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lift off
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers

When NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover roared off the pad aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m., there were a lot of energized engineers on the ground at Kennedy Space Center.

Following the successful launch, the Florida spaceport’s Director of Engineering, Shawn Quinn, offered praise to the team’s support of Kennedy’s Launch Services Program (LSP).

“Our LSP engineering team diligently worked through multiple milestones to achieve launch readiness,” Quinn said. “Every mission presents its own unique challenges, including Mars 2020. The engineering team’s response to these challenges was outstanding.”

The team supported critical reviews and tests, such as: the LSP pre-Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Risk Control Board, FRR Launch Management Coordination meeting, systems certification review, and mission dress rehearsal. Engineering technical experts worked through 247 engineering review summaries in support of the historic mission.

Quinn also recognized the Engineering’s Construction of Facilities (COF) team for its contributions to facility and infrastructure support.

“The real-time support to the Spaceport Integration and Services directorate in addressing operations and maintenance-related issues and concerns during processing was a critical piece to the success of the mission,” Quinn said.

The team performed facility repairs and upgrades — including replacing obsolete substations, switch gears, chillers, air ventilation and conditioning systems, facility electrical, lighting, and fire protection systems at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility Mission Operations Support Building, the Multi-Operation Support Building, the Radiothermalisotopic Generator Facility, and Hangar AE — all in support of this historic mission.

Perseverance is now on its way to seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth. Along with the rover is the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration that will be the first powered flight on Mars.The rover will arrive on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

The mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key astrobiology questions concerning the potential for life on Mars. It not only seeks signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also will search for signs of past microbial life.

Successful Launch Sends Perseverance on Seven-Month Journey to Mars

Mars 2020 Perseverance launch
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket climbs upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Not obstacles, not complexity — not even a worldwide pandemic — could keep NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover from blasting off on its historic mission to the Red Planet.

On Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, Perseverance lifted off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, bound for a Feb. 18, 2021, arrival to Mars, where it will touch down on the surface of Jezero Crater.

“It was an amazing launch; very successful,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Thursday’s post-launch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “It went right on time, it is on a trajectory now that has been done with pinpoint accuracy, and it is, in fact, on its way to Mars.”

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Due to the alignment of Earth and Mars, the mission’s launch period would have expired on Aug. 15. That placed increased importance on hitting the window; otherwise, the rover would have needed to be stored for two years, until the next favorable alignment.

“(The ULA and Launch Services team) gave us a perfect launch this morning — right down the middle; couldn’t have aimed us any better,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They really pushed hard to keep us on this limited planetary launch window in 2020.”

With its unique and distinct challenges, COVID-19 certainly threatened that timeline. Wallace admitted there have been “very strenuous moments” in the past few months dealing with the pandemic.

“It really took the entire agency to step up and help us; and they didn’t hesitate,” he said. “The team out there — thousands of people — have really made this a special mission. As people have eluded to, ‘Perseverance’ has become a pretty good name for this mission.”

Launch Director Omar Baez of NASA’s Launch Services Program beamed with pride following his team’s flawless effort.

Derrol Nail, left, NASA Communications, and Moogega Cooper, Planetary Protection engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, provide live coverage during Thursday’s launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

“Fantastic, honored, proud, ecstatic — those are the kind of words I can think of right now,” Baez said. “We hit right at the beginning of the window, and the vehicle performed perfectly. It’s just a proud moment, and I’m glad our program provided what was needed to get this on the way.”

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said before the launch that the rocket would leap off of the pad. On a calm, clear, and beautiful Florida day, that’s exactly what happened.

“We ignited, the Atlas performed nominally throughout the mission, and we ended with just an extraordinarily accurate orbital insertion,” Bruno said.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance carries seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. It will characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The mission marks the first time in history that samples will be collected to bring back to Earth from another planet. Another first: Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Perseverance will spend at least one Martian year, or approximately two Earth years, exploring the landing site region on the Red Planet. Though the mission has a long way to go, Thursday’s launch sent it off to a terrific start.

“I loved it,” said NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. “It’s like punching a hole in the sky.”

Today’s the Day: Perseverance Being Prepped for Liftoff!

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover aboard sits on the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on July 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Good morning, and welcome to today’s live blog coverage of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch! It is a beautiful morning here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

We are just over an hour away from today’s scheduled 7:50 a.m. EDT liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. There is a two-hour launch window. Perseverance will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket to embark on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet. NASA’s Launch Services Program, (LSP) based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Weather reports have been positive — the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. An updated weather report is expected shortly.

This mission is the culmination of years of dedicated work by thousands of people, including teams from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the spacecraft was designed and built; Kennedy, where it was assembled; ULA, Lockheed Martin, and scientists from around the world. In the U.S., flight hardware was built in 44 states, involving more than 550 cities, towns and communities.

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live launch coverage starting at 7 a.m. Stay tuned as the mission eclipses multiple milestones — including stage separation, main engine cutoff, and spacecraft separation — or follow along right here at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020. NASA will broadcast a post-launch news conference, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

NASA Administrator ‘Exceptionally Excited’ for Mars-Bound Mission

NASA Administrator's briefing for Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far left, conducts a briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 29, 2020, in advance of the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover scheduled for July 30. Joining him, from left are Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, NASA astronaut Zena Cardman, partially hidden, and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Bursts of Florida afternoon rain showers could not dampen the spirts of NASA leaders on the eve of a much-anticipated mission to Mars.

“I’m exceptionally excited about what we’re about to do because we’re going to launch Mars 2020 with the Perseverance robot,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Wednesday’s briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. “But there is so much more going on here. This is the first time in history where we’re going to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars.”

The briefing was held outdoors near the Florida spaceport’s iconic countdown clock. A temporary structure installed on the Press Site lawn shielded participants and limited media from the typical Sunshine State summer downpour.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Despite dealing with significant challenges associated with COVID-19, Kennedy (and its surrounding area) is hosting the second major launch in two months. SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A on May 30.

“When we started 2020, we knew we were going to have a big year at the spaceport,” Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro said. “And I think the events and the milestones of the next couple days are really going to demonstrate that.”

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

Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing less than four pounds is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” Bridenstine said.

The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions. It also will test new technologies to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.

“In 2026, we’re going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth,” Bridenstine said. “For the first time in history, we’re doing a Mars sample return mission.”

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live launch coverage tomorrow morning, starting at 7. Stay tuned as the mission eclipses multiple milestones — including stage separation, main engine cutoff, and spacecraft separation — or follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020. NASA will broadcast a post-launch news conference, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Weather Outlook Remains Positive for Tomorrow Morning’s Liftoff

Students who named Perseverance and Ingenuity
Students Alex Mather, at left, and Vaneeza Rupani, stand near the countdown clock at the News Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 28, 2020. Mather named the Perseverance rover, and Rupani named the Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With less than 24 hours to go until launch, the weather is doing its part to cooperate.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is continuing to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Thursday, July 30, liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Primary weather concerns for launch are cumulus and thick clouds.

Perseverance is scheduled to blast off tomorrow morning from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website today at noon to view a briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, live from Kennedy. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for a recap of this afternoon’s event, as well as a preview of live countdown and launch coverage, starting tomorrow at 7 a.m.