MARS 2020 Perseverance | Atlas V Rocket
NASA’s most sophisticated Mars rover yet is on its way to the red planet after a successful launch July 30. NASA has launched one of its most crucial science missions to date, the Mars 2020 mission that carries its Perseverance robotic rover.
What is the spacecraft?
The spacecraft is the protective “spaceship” that enables the precious cargo (that is, the Perseverance rover!) to travel between Earth and Mars. It is separate from the launch vehicle that carries the spacecraft and the rover outside of Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull. The spacecraft includes the mechanical units that safely carry and manoeuver the rover through the Martian atmosphere to a landing on Mars.
What is a launch vehicle?
A launch vehicle provides the velocity needed by a spacecraft to escape Earth’s gravity and set it on its course for Mars.
|Launched:||July 30, 2020 4:50 a.m. PDT (7:50 a.m. EDT)|
|Launch Site:||Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida|
|Launch Vehicle:||Atlas V-541|
|Height with payload:||191 feet (58 meters)|
|Mass, fully fueled, with spacecraft on top:||About 1.17 million pounds (531,000 kilograms)|
The mission of the launch vehicle:
The Mars 2020 mission was designed to launch at a time when Earth and Mars are in positions in their orbits that is advantageous for spacecraft travelling to and landing on Mars. This favourable position of the planets means that it takes less launch energy to get to the Red Planet compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits around the sun.
Mars 2020 Launched on an Atlas V 541:
When mission planners are choosing among different launch vehicles, they consider how much mass each launch vehicle can lift into space. The integrated Mars 2020 flight system is similar in size and mass to its predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The Mars Science Laboratory mission had a total launch mass, including the Atlas V-541 that lifted it away from Earth, of about 531,000 kilograms (1.17 million pounds).
Mars 2020 launched on an Atlas V-541, an intermediate-class launch vehicle. NASA selected this rocket because it has the right liftoff capability for the “heavyweight” requirements for Mars 2020. NASA had also successfully used rockets in the same family for prior missions such as Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, New Horizons, Mars Science Laboratory, and Juno.
United Launch Alliance provided Mars 2020’s launch vehicle. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida managed the Atlas V launch service for Mars 2020. The two-stage Atlas V-541 launch vehicle lifted off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Designing A Mars Rover To Launch In 2020:
The Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance, is based on the Mars Science Laboratory‘s Curiosity rover configuration. It is car-sized, about 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall (about 3 meters long, 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall). But at 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms), it weighs less than a compact car. In some sense, the rover parts are similar to what any living creature would need to keep it “alive” and able to explore.
The Perseverance Rover Has The Following Parts:
|Body:||A structure that protects the rover’s “vital organs”|
|Brains:||Computers to process information|
|Temperature controls:||Internal heaters, a layer of insulation, and more
“neck and head” and the cameras to give the rover a human-scale view
|Eyes and ears:||Cameras and instruments that give the rover information about its environment|
|Arm and hand:||A way to extend its reach and collect rock samples for study|
|Wheels and legs:||Parts for mobility|
|Electrical power:||Batteries and power|
|Communications:||Antennas for “speaking” and “listening”|
Major parts of the Atlas V-541 Rocket:
The major elements of the Atlas V-541 rocket that will be used for the Mars 2020 mission are:
Stage 1: Atlas V Rocket
Solid Rocket Motors
Stage 2: Centaur
Stage 1: Atlas V Rocket
The Atlas V first stage is the common core booster. This main booster is 107 feet (32.5 meters) long, with a diameter of 12.5 feet (3.8 meters). With the payload on board, the launch vehicle is 188 feet (57.3 meters). Fully fueled, with the spacecraft on top, it weighs about 730,000 pounds (333,000 kilograms).
Thermally stable kerosene fuel (type RP-1) and liquid oxygen will be loaded shortly before launch into cylindrical fuel tanks that make up about half of the total height of the vehicle.
The common core booster can provide a thrust of up to about 850,000 pounds (3.8 million newtons) at full throttle. Named for the famous Isaac Newton, a newton is a unit of force required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram, one meter per second every second!
During this phase, the spacecraft accelerates to supersonic speeds of about 4,500 meters per second (10,000 miles per hour).
Solid Rocket Motors:
Four solid rocket boosters strapped onto the common core booster add to the thrust produced by the first stage. Each of these boosters is 64 feet (19.5 meters) long and 61 inches (155 centimetres) in diameter and delivers about 306,000 pounds (1.36 million newtons) of thrust.
Stage 2: Centaur
Fuel and oxidizer and the vehicle’s “brains”; fires twice, once to insert the vehicle-spacecraft stack into low Earth orbit and then again to accelerate the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on its way towards Mars.
Two interstage adaptors connect the first stage of the Atlas with its Centaur upper stage. The Centaur’s has a restartable RL-10 engine from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. This engine uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and can provide up to about 22,300 pounds (99,200) of thrust. The Centaur can control its orientation precisely, which is important for managing the direction of thrust while its engine is firing. It carries its flight control computer and can release its payload with the desired attitude and spin rate.
The spacecraft rides into the sky inside a protective payload fairing atop the Centaur stage. With the payload fairing on top, the vehicle stands approximately 191 feet (58 meters) tall when it is ready for launch.
Image Courtesy: mars.nasa.gov