NASA, SpaceX Invite Media to Crew-1 Mission Update, Target New Launch Date

The SpaceX Crew-1 official crew insignia features a dragon in silhouette, a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the numeral 1 for Crew-1.NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Managers of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will hold a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 28, to discuss the upcoming launch, including results from recent testing of the Falcon 9 Merlin engines following unexpected data SpaceX noted during a recent non-NASA launch. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

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Next-Generation Airlock Prepped for SpaceX CRS-21 Launch

The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first commercially funded airlock for the International Space Station is ready for its journey to space. On Saturday, Oct. 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory.

CRS-21
The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, while also serving as an outside toolbox for astronauts conducting spacewalks. Photo credit: SpaceX

The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, and also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.

The Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the space station. This will be the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station.

The pressurized capsule will carry a variety of research including studies on the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space. CRS-21 is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Teams are targeting late November or early December for liftoff.

NASA and SpaceX Teams Prepare for Crew-1 Mission

Crew-1 astronauts in training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts participate in crew equipment interface testing at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Sept. 24, 2020. From left are mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, and Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, all NASA astronauts, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut. Photo credit: SpaceX

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Teams involved with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission held a series of briefings Tuesday at the agency’s Johnson Space Center about the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission is targeted to launch at 2:40 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 31, on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be the first international crew to launch on the new, commercially owned and operated American system.

“What’s exciting about this upcoming mission is that we are actually going to fly a certified Crew Dragon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is another milestone; a critical milestone in the development of our ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil — now sustainably.”

Crew-1 preflight briefing
From left, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, and Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX, participate in a Crew-1 preflight briefing on Sept. 29, 2020. NASA image

NASA and SpaceX are in the final stages of the certification reviews following the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to the space station with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, which is helping verify the end-to-end capabilities, including launch, docking and return to Earth.

Teams currently are completing and applying lessons learned from Demo-2 and other test flights, including redesign of a small area of the thermal protection system around the trunk attachments, modifications to the ventilation system on the nosecone of the Dragon spacecraft, and design adjustment for measuring the barometric pressure used for parachute deployment. The teams also are coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure crew safety upon splashdown, including extra ships and air assets to patrol the “keep out” zone to mitigate safety concerns for boaters approaching the landing area.

“This is a great milestone for us; it’s a culmination of many, many years of work with NASA and SpaceX,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters. “This has been a dream of ours to have commercial crew rotation seats up on the station, and we’re looking forward to many more to come.”

After certification, Crew Dragon will be the first commercial system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the space station.

“This is all leading up to the big operational cadence that we’re about to move into — and this is super cool,” said Benji Reed, senior director, Human Spaceflight Programs, SpaceX. “We’re at a point now where we are in the final lane; we’re getting ready for this launch.”

Crew-1 astronauts
From left, Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi announced Sept. 29, 2020, that the name of their spaceship is Resilience. NASA image

Following an Oct. 31 launch, the Crew-1 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the space station the next day to join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“It’s going to be an exciting time onboard the space station,” said Kenny Todd, deputy manager, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We’re looking forward to getting up to seven crew.”

Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will become the first crew to fly a full-duration mission to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft for a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. For the first time, the space station’s crew will expand to seven people with Expedition 64, increasing the amount of crew time available for research.

As commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-1 mission, Hopkins is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the station. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and demonstrating that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

“As you look at the definition of resilience, I know it means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming adverse events, and I think all of us can agree that 2020 certainly has been a challenging year,” Hopkins said.

“So the name ‘Resilience’ is really in honor of the SpaceX and NASA teams, and quite frankly, it’s in honor of our families, of our colleagues, of our fellow citizens, of our international partners and our leaders that have all shown that same quality — that same characteristic — through these difficult times.”

As mission specialists, Walker and Noguchi will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the vehicle during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Both are spaceflight veterans: Dragon will be the third spacecraft on which Noguchi has traveled (he flew aboard NASA’s space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft), while Walker has spent 161 days on the orbiting laboratory.

“It’s been a very intense six months’ worth of training, but we are ready, and I am very excited to get back to the space station,” Walker said. “My experience of having already lived and worked there will give me a huge head start and make me much more efficient.”

Noguchi expressed the significance of teamwork and diversity, adding further meaning to the spacecraft’s new name.

“All of us are contributing to this wonderful team; everybody brings something to the table,” Noguchi said. “This diversity definitely brings the team’s resilience.”

For almost 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies that enable us to prepare for human exploration to the Moon and Mars. NASA is enabling economic growth in low-Earth orbit to open access to space to more people, more science, and more companies than ever before.

“To be able to live on the space station for six months and during that time to be there for the 20th anniversary of human presence on the space station — and to potentially launch on the 20th anniversary of the launch of Expedition 1 — is just special,” said Glover, pilot of the Crew Dragon and second-in-command for the mission. “[It] relates to something Mike said earlier — that the power of teamwork, when we come together to work on the same thing, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish. It is truly a privilege.”

NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts
The SpaceX Crew-1 crew members (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are beginning a regular cadence of missions with astronauts launching on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 is the first crew rotation mission with four astronauts flying on a commercial spacecraft, and the first including an international partner.

NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor GloverShannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are set to launch to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and to demonstrate that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. They named it in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens.

Launch is targeted for Saturday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting science and maintenance. The four astronauts are set to return in spring 2021.

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Preparations Continue for SpaceX First Operational Flight with Astronauts

Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.
Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Norah Moran

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the company’s first operational flight with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program arrived in Florida Tuesday, Aug. 18. The upcoming flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, will be the first of regular rotational missions to the space station following completion of NASA certification.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than Oct. 23, 2020. The spacecraft made its journey from the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California over the weekend and is now undergoing prelaunch processing in the company’s facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Preparations are also underway for the mission’s Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the rocket’s second stage at its facility in McGregor, Texas, also on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 first stage booster arrived at the launch site in Florida in July to begin its final launch preparations.

The Crew-1 mission will send Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science mission.

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.

SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Path Home

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

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.