NASA’s Mars 2020 mission launched yesterday from Space Launch Complex 41 on board a United Launch Alliance (ULA) ATLAS V rocket, carrying the PERSEVERANCE rover.
ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every US-led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. The launch of this mission marks ULA’s 20th trip to the red planet and the 85th successful launch of an ATLAS V rocket, which has previously launched four missions to Mars, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005, the CURIOSITY rover in 2011, the MAVEN orbiter in 2013 and the InSight lander in 2018.
“Thank you to the ULA team and our NASA mission partners for diligently working through an ever-changing environment to successfully launch this historic mission,” commented Gary Wentz, ULA VP of Government and Commercial Programs. “The complexity of the Mars 2020 mission proves ULA’s acceptance of the most challenging launch requirements and we work together with NASA to achieve them. Our guidance accuracy for interplanetary missions is unmatched, and the ATLAS V is the only vehicle certified to launch payloads with nuclear power sources.”
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. The vehicle included a 5m payload fairing (PLF) and stood at 197ft tall. The ATLAS booster for this mission was 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 ULA’s proven ATLAS V vehicle because it has the right liftoff capability for the ‘heavy weight’ requirements for PERSEVERANCE