United Launch Alliance Launches Mars 2020 Mission for NASA

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover for NASA, lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on July 30.

ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every U.S. 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.

The Atlas V 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. 

Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, said: “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.”

“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. 

This Atlas V 541 configuration vehicle included a 5-meter payload fairing (PLF) and stood at 197 ft. 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.

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