NASA Helicopter Ready to Hitch a Ride to the Red Planet

NASA's Mars Helicopter inside Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility
NASA’s Mars Helicopter is installed on the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on April 6, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Mars Helicopter will make history in about 10 months when it becomes the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Now it has its ride to the Red Planet.

On April 6, 2020, the helicopter was attached to the belly of the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover. The installation took place inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rover has remained since its Feb. 9, 2020, arrival from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA Mars Helicopter and Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, carrying the agency’s Mars Helicopter, will touch down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter weighs less than 4 pounds; the total length of its rotors is about 4 feet, tip to tip. Its main purpose is a technology demonstration. After Perseverance safely lands on Mars, the helicopter will be released to perform the first in a series of flight tests that will take place during 30 Martian days (a day on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth).

For history’s first flight experimental flight test in the thin Martian atmosphere (less than 1% the density of Earth’s), the helicopter is tasked with hovering in the air a few feet off the ground for 20 to 30 seconds before landing. It is designed to fly on its own, without human control, using minimal commands from Earth sent in advance.

With the helicopter safely tucked away and covered by a shield to protect it during descent and landing, Perseverance will touch down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted between July 17 and Aug. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. For more in-depth information, visit the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover Undergoing Processing at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 rover at Kennedy Space Center
The launch of the Mars 2020 rover is targeted for mid-July. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Soon after its arrival to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week, the Mars 2020 rover was moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, where it has been undergoing processing for its mission later this year. The spacecraft was flown to Kennedy from California aboard a C-17 aircraft on Feb. 12.

Targeted for mid-July 2020, the mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch is managed by the Launch Services Program.

The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Mars 2020 Rover Makes its Way to Kennedy

Mars 2020 rover arrival at Kennedy
The Mars 2020 rover is offloaded from a C-17 aircraft at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 12, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Leaving from its temporary home at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 rover completed a cross-country trip Wednesday afternoon. It arrived on a C-17 aircraft to the Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mars 2020 rover delivered to Kennedy Space Center
After its arrival at Kennedy from California, the Mars 2020 rover is prepared to be moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for unboxing. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The spacecraft was then moved to Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF), where it is being unboxed today. Before making the trek to the Florida spaceport, the Mars 2020 rover traveled about 70 miles southeast from JPL to March Air Reserve Base.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Last month, multiple important tests were performed on the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell inside the PHSF, including measuring the center of gravity and moments of inertia on the spin table, as well as lift activities. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, on Dec. 11, 2019. The spacecraft was manufactured at JPL.

Check out the mission’s website for more in-depth information on the Mars 2020 rover.

NASA Continues With Important Testing of Mars 2020 Rover Aeroshell

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell spin table tests
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are performed on the spin table inside the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy last month.

The mission is scheduled to launch this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. More information can be found on the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover Lift Activities Performed at Kennedy Space Center

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell lift activities
Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Jan. 14, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Lift activities for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were conducted inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The activities included installing the inverted lift fixture and lifting the aeroshell assembly to the spin table for mass properties measurements.

The Mars 2020 rover mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy will manage the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

Visit the mission website for more information.