Excitement Builds as NASA’s Mars Perseverance Launch Nears

Mars Perseverance rover
The Mars Perseverance rover will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, July 30. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

A historic mission years in the making is now less than a week from liftoff.

Final preparations are being made for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, targeted for Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Perseverance will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of pride and accomplishment — mixed with the excitement and nervous apprehension — that goes with this final stage of the mission,” said John Calvert, Mars 2020 Mission Manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), which is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is managing the launch.

The team has successfully overcome obstacles and challenges along the way, including working through a worldwide pandemic, to remain on schedule for launch.

Mars 2020 Mission Manager John Calvert

“Just throw COVID-19 on the pile of unexpected things that NASA and its incredible teams have been able to respond to and deal with for decades,” Calvert said. “It’s part of our DNA: work hard and solve the problems as they present themselves. Whatever it takes — simple as that.”

Live launch coverage will begin at 7 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The broadcast will capture major milestones as Perseverance starts her seven-month journey to the Red Planet. A postlaunch news conference is planned from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Several events leading up to launch also will be broadcast on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

  • Monday, July 27: Prelaunch news conference, from 1 to 2 p.m. NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Bettina Inclán will host the event, featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen, Launch Director Omar Baez from LSP, and ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno. A Mars 2020 Mission Engineering/Science Briefing will follow, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 28: NASA Edge Rollout Show, from 10 to 11 a.m.; Mars 2020 Mars Sample Return Briefing, from 2 to 3 p.m.; and Mars 2020 Mission Tech and Humans to Mars Briefing, from 4 to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Director Bob Cabana and astronaut Zena Cardman, from noon to 1 p.m.

Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry 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.

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.

For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for live countdown and launch coverage.

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, 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.

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’s SpaceX Demo-2 ‘Go’ for Liftoff Wednesday After Today’s Launch Readiness Review

Demo-2 media teleconference
Representatives from NASA, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron participate in a media teleconference following the Launch Readiness Review at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 25, 2020, in advance of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. From left to right are: Norm Knight, deputy director, NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Operations; Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program; Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program; Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX; and Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed its final major review today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and teams received the “go” to proceed toward launch. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

The mission will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American rocket and spacecraft as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Demo-2 will be SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities.

“We’re burning down the final paper. All the teams are a go, and we’re continuing to progress toward our mission,” said Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “I’m very proud of the team. We are continuing to be vigilant and careful, and make sure we do this right.”

In this morning’s official forecast, the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 60% chance of unfavorable weather conditions for the Demo-2 mission. The primary weather concerns that could prevent launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

However, 45th Weather Squadron Launch Weather Officer Mike McAleenan pointed out things are looking up.

“It certainly has been trending better over the last day or two for launch weather,” McAleenan said. “If I was to issue the forecast today, right now, we would probably be down to 40% chance of violation.”

Crew members Behnken and Hurley remain in quarantine, a routine part of prelaunch preparations for astronauts journeying into space. On Saturday, they took part in a full dress rehearsal of launch day, including suiting up and climbing aboard the Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A.

“It was a really good review today, and from a crew perspective, we were very happy with the discussions that took place — the thoroughness of the review,” said Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center. “We’re definitely ready to press forward.”

Upon arriving at the space station, Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew to conduct important research as well as support station operations and maintenance. While docked to the station, the crew will run tests to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable on future missions of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days.

“I think the on-orbit crew is definitely ready for some company, and very much looking forward to the launch this Wednesday,” said Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program. “The ISS team is ready to support the docking of Crew Dragon.”

The specific duration for this mission will be determined after arrival based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. Finally, the mission will conclude with the Crew Dragon undocking from the station, deorbiting and returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch Readiness Review Complete; Media Teleconference at 6 p.m. EDT

The Launch Readiness Review for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission has concluded at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX key managers have given the “go” for launch on a mission that will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American rocket and spacecraft as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

A media teleconference is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT. Live audio of the Demo-2 mission patchteleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Demo-2 will be SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities. During the mission, the crew and SpaceX mission controllers will verify the performance of the spacecraft’s environmental control system, displays and control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more.

Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew on the station to conduct important research as well as support station operations and maintenance. While docked to the station, the crew will run tests to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable on future missions of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days. The specific duration for this mission will be determined after arrival based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. Finally, the mission will conclude with the Crew Dragon undocking from the station, deorbiting and returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Gets a Boost

Mars Perseverance rover booster offload
The United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is offloaded from the Antonov 124 cargo aircraft at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 19, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With the addition of a powerful piece of hardware, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover continues to progress toward its much-anticipated launch in less than two months.

The spacecraft’s booster arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Skid Strip on Monday, May 18. It was then offloaded and taken to United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.

Mars Perseverance rover booster arrival
The Antonov 124 cargo aircraft, carrying the United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, taxis off the runway at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Perseverance remains on track for its targeted mid-July launch. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch.

Perseverance will reach the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to 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. Ingenuity, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to Perseverance, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

For more information, visit the mission website.