Mars 2020 Rover’s Heat Shield, Back Shell Arrive at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell
The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover are unboxed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Two vital pieces of equipment for the Mars 2020 rover were flown from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado and recently delivered to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.

The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) on Dec. 11, 2019, and were then transported to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Built by Lockheed Martin Space, these two essential parts of the spacecraft will protect the rover during its passage to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February, 2020.

Mars 2020 rover heat shield and back shell unboxing
The heat shield and back shell will protect the Mars 2020 rover during its passage to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

As the spacecraft descends through the Martian atmosphere, the heat shield will encounter extreme amounts of friction, creating temperatures as high as about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The back shell contains several elements critical to landing the rover, including the parachute and antennas for communication. Some of these key components will be integrated in the months to come by the NASA-JPL team at Kennedy.

The mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by NASA’s Launch Services Program. It will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will carry seven different scientific instruments. 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.

Visit the mission website for more information.