A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover.
The launch is on track for July 30 at Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is planned for 7:50 a.m. EDT at the opening of a two-hour launch window.
ULA has a significant history launching to the red planet. ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every U.S. led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. The launch of this mission will mark ULA’s 20th trip to Mars. Mars 2020 will be the fifth mission to Mars launched by the Atlas V rocket, following the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005, the Curiosity rover in 2011, the MAVEN orbiter in 2013 and the InSight lander in 2018.
“We are proud to launch the Mars 2020 mission to orbit,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “The discoveries from the Mars 2020 mission will provide crucial science and research that will help inform NASA’s future plans to put humans on the Moon and Mars. We look forward to continuing the Mars mission legacy with our NASA partners.”
One of the most powerful rockets in the Atlas V fleet, the 541 configuration, with four solid rocket boosters, provides optimum performance to precisely deliver a range of mission types. In addition to three national security and two weather satellites, an Atlas V 541 rocket launched NASA’s Curiosity rover on its 10-month, 354 million-mile journey to the surface of Mars.
This Atlas V 541 configuration vehicle includes a 5-meter payload fairing (PLF) and stands 197 ft. tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the four AJ-60A SRBs and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.
NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle for this mission and is responsible for management and oversight of the Atlas V launch services. LSP selected this rocket because it has the right liftoff capability for the “heavy weight” requirements for NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch.
To date ULA has launched 139 times with 100 percent mission success.