NASA's Next Mars Spacecraft Arrives in Florida for Final Checkout
A large spacecraft destined to be Earth's next robotic emissary
to Mars has completed the first leg of its journey, a cargo-
plane ride from Colorado to Florida in preparation for an
August launch. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is an
important next step in fulfilling NASA's vision of space
exploration and ultimately sending human explorers to Mars and
Image right: Workers roll one of two containers with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter equipment into the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: NASA/KSC
The spacecraft's prime mission will run through 2010. During
this period, the project will study Mars' composition and
structure, from atmosphere to underground, in much greater
detail than any previous orbiter. It will also evaluate
possible sites for future martian landings and will serve as a
high-data-rate communications relay for surface missions.
"Great work by a talented team has brought Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter to this milestone in our progress toward a successful
mission," said Jim Graf of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif., project manager for the mission.
The spacecraft arrived at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle
Landing Facility on April 30 aboard a C-17 cargo plane and was
taken to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to begin
processing. It was built near Denver by Lockheed Martin Space
Systems. Launch is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 7:53:58 a.m. EDT
(4:53:58 a.m. PDT), at the opening of a two-hour launch window.
The spacecraft will undergo multiple mechanical assembly
operations and electrical tests to verify its readiness for
launch. A test this month will verify the spacecraft's ability
to communicate through NASA's Deep Space Network tracking
stations. A June test will check the deployment of the
spacecraft's high gain communications antenna. Another major
deployment test will check out the spacecraft's large solar
In July, the spacecraft will be filled with hydrazine fuel for
the "Mars orbit insertion" engine burn, which will be used to
reduce the velocity of the spacecraft and place it in orbit
around Mars. The fuel also will be used for attitude-control
propellant. On July 26 the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be
encapsulated in the Atlas V fairing prior to being moved to its
launch site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The Lockheed Martin Atlas V arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station aboard an Antonov cargo plane on March 31 and was taken
to the high bay at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center. The
Atlas booster will be transported in May to the Vertical
Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 to be erected.
The Centaur upper stage will be transported to that facility
for hoisting atop the booster in June.
Prelaunch preparations will include a "wet dress rehearsal" in
July, during which the Atlas V will be rolled from the Vertical
Integration Facility to the launch pad on its mobile launch
platform. The vehicle will be fully fueled with RP-1, liquid
hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and the team will perform a
simulated countdown. The Atlas V will then be rolled back into
the Vertical Integration Facility for final launch
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be transported from the
Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center to
the Vertical Integration Facility on July 29. It will be
hoisted atop the launch vehicle to join the Atlas V for the
final phase of launch preparations. The spacecraft is scheduled
to undergo a functional test on August 1, followed by a final
week of launch vehicle and spacecraft closeouts.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by JPL, a
division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed
Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project.
International Launch Services, a Lockheed Martin joint venture,
and Lockheed Martin Space Systems are providing launch services
for the mission.
Information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available
online at http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/mro
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dolores Beasley (202) 358-1753
NASA Headquarters, Washington
George Diller (321) 867-2468
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Joan Underwood (303) 971-7398
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver