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.

Perseverance Presses On, Remains Targeted for Summer Launch

Mars Perseverance rover in the PHSF at Kennedy Space Center
Multiple milestones have been reached recently with the Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The aeroshell backshell was attached on April 29 and the rover was attached to its rocket-powered descent stage on April 23 inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Testing on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center closed out April on an extremely high note.

The latest activities at the Florida spaceport included attaching the aeroshell backshell on April 29 and attaching the rover to its rocket-powered descent stage on April 23 inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The rover and descent stage were the first spacecraft components to come together for launch — and they will be the last to separate when the spacecraft reaches Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

The backshell carries the parachute and several components that will be used during later stages of entry, descent and landing. The aeroshell will encapsulate and protect Perseverance and its descent stage during their deep space journey to Mars and during descent through the Martian atmosphere, which generates intense heat.

April saw other key rover milestones reached at Kennedy. On April 14, the

Mars Perseverance rover in the PHSF
Perseverance remains on track for its targeted launch period, which opens in six weeks. Liftoff, aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, will be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

descent stage — fully loaded with 884 pounds of fuel (a hydrazine monopropellant) — was rotated and spun on two separate measuring fixtures to pinpoint its center of gravity.  This will help ensure the descent stage remains stable while guiding Perseverance to a safe landing.

On April 6, NASA’s Mars Helicopter, recently named Ingenuity, was attached to the belly of the rover. Weighing less than four pounds, the twin-rotor, solar-powered 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). Ingenuity will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Thanks to the enduring efforts of NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers, Perseverance remains on track for its targeted launch period, which opens in just six weeks. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage will complete the slowing of Perseverance to less than two miles per hour. At about 65 feet over the Martian surface, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater. The rover will then sever the cords and the descent stage will fly away.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission 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.

Visit the mission website for more information.

NASA Shows Perseverance with Helicopter, Cruise Stage Testing

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Mars 2020 mission involving NASA’s newly named rover — Perseverance — received a significant boost following the completion of important testing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The functional test (50 RPM spin) was executed on the stand in the airlock. This marked the last time the rotor blades will be operated until the rover reaches the Martian surface.

The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will remain encapsulated after landing, deploying once mission managers determine an acceptable area to conduct test flights.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On March 5, 2020, NASA announced Perseverance as the new name for the ars 2020 rover. Alexander Mather, a seventh-grader from Virginia, provided the winning name for the rover with his entry in the agency’s Name the Rover essay contest.

Perseverance 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, Perseverance 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.

For more in-depth information, visit the mission’s website.

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.