The Atlas V booster and Centaur upper stage that will launch the next NASA Mars orbiter were unloaded and transported Monday to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.
Cape Canaveral, FL (Florida Today) -- With a honk of its horn Monday morning, a flatbed truck rolled off a
ship onto a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station wharf carrying the booster
that will blast NASA's next Mars-bound orbiter into space.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket's Centaur upper stage, wrapped in a protective cover, followed close behind.
precious cargo," observed Capt. Bob Martus of Foss Maritime Co., who
safely piloted the two stages aboard ULA's "Delta Mariner" on a more
than 2,000-mile, week-long trip from Decatur, Ala.
The rocket will now be prepared for a planned Nov. 18 launch of NASA's $671 million MAVEN mission.
Short for "Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN," the mission is the first dedicated to studying Mars' upper atmosphere.
than a year, the spacecraft will perform a series of dives through the
Martian atmosphere to study its composition and how the Red Planet's
climate has changed over time.
mission officially has a 20-day launch window, but NASA officials said
another 15 days are available if necessary, making it possible to launch
through Dec. 23.
spacecraft is doing really well," said Chuck Tatro, MAVEN mission
manager with Kennedy Space Center's Launch Services Program. "They're
right on schedule."
Lockheed Martin Corp.-built spacecraft arrived at KSC by plane from
Colorado on Aug. 2, and this week is performing solar arrays tests.
launch vehicle took a more circuitous route, winding down three rivers
to the mouth of the Mississippi River before cruising across the Gulf of
Mexico, around the Florida Keys and up the east coast to reach the dock
near Port Canaveral.
a pretty tough piece of hardware, if you think about the environments
that it's designed to withstand on launch day," said Vernon Thorp, ULA's
program manager for NASA and commercial missions. "However, we treat it
like it's a crate of eggs."
The 107-foot long, bronze-colored booster and 42-foot Centaur rolled in to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.
another Atlas V launches an Air Force satellite, planned for
mid-September, they'll be stacked inside a vertical processing tower at
Launch Complex 41 and await MAVEN's arrival from KSC in early November.