The launch of the NASA Perseverance Mars rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was delayed two days until July 22 after a problem with the ground support team at the Kennedy Space Center delayed the encapsulation of the spacecraft within the fairing. payload of your Atlas 5 rocket.
NASA said authorities have set a new target launch date for the Mars 2020 mission of July 22 “due to a delay in processing found during the spacecraft’s encapsulation activities.”
There is a two-hour launch window that will open on July 22 at 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT). NASA says the mission has until August 11 to launch this year and still reach Mars on a seven-month direct trip, but authorities are discussing extending the launch period for a few more days.
“Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination problem on ground support lines at NASA’s Hazardous Cargo Services Facility (PHSF),” NASA said in a brief statement Wednesday.
NASA said the spacecraft and launch vehicle are healthy, and encapsulation of the rover inside PHSF, a climate-controlled clean room where NASA has prepared numerous interplanetary missions for launch, is being completed this week.
Mary MacLaughlin, a NASA spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the Perseverance rover and launch deck will be mounted on top of her United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Saturday inside the ULA Vertical Integration Facility near the southern perimeter of platform 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That will initiate a series of connectivity and interface tests to ensure good data links between the Atlas 5 and the Mars 2020 spacecraft.
ULA teams completed a countdown test on the Atlas 5 rocket, without its payload bound for Mars, on Monday at Cape Canaveral. The launch team loaded kerosene, liquid hydrogen, and liquid oxygen boosters into the first stage of the Atlas and the upper stage of the Centaur, and stopped the simulated countdown just before starting the Atlas 5 RD-180 main engine.
ULA returned the rocket to VIF from platform 41 on Wednesday to prepare the launcher for the arrival of the Perseverance rover.
In the final weeks before launch, ground crews will install the Perseverance rover’s plutonium-powered power source through a port alongside the Atlas 5 payload fairing.
The Mars rover, about the size of a small car, will be powered by the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG, throughout its mission.
Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance has been locked inside its entry, descent, and landing capsule for the past few weeks at the Kennedy Space Center. The 1.6-foot-tall Ingenuity helicopter, which will become the first air vehicle of its kind to fly in another planet’s atmosphere, is connected to the belly of the Perseverance rover for the journey to the Martian surface.
Perseverance and ingenuity are mounted on a rocket powered descent stage that will place the rover on the Martian surface using a leash. Landing is scheduled for February 18, 2021, and mission managers say the Perseverance rover will attempt the most accurate landing on Mars.
Perseverance carries a group of scientific instruments and 25 cameras to explore a region of Mars called Jezero Crater, which is home to an ancient dry river delta.
The rover will also collect samples of rock cores for its eventual return to Earth on a future mission. Scientists will look for the signatures of ancient life on specimens of rockets returning to Earth.
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