CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — United Launch Alliance (ULA) and NASA greeted the Atlas V 401 launch vehicle that will be used to send NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft on its way to the Red Planet. Earlier this morning, technicians offloaded the rocket’s two stages from the ULA Mariner in preparation for a Nov. 18 liftoff. The rocket’s two stages arrived in the early hours of Aug. 26. The booster’s first and second stage began the move to CCAFS’ Atlas Space Operations Center at around 9:45 a.m. EDT.
This configuration of the Atlas booster has no solid rocket boosters and a fairing about four meters in diameter. Atlas rockets are launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida. For many long-time workers in the space industry, this was their first chance to see the boosters arrive at Cape Canaveral in this fashion.
“I’m the launch director and it’s sometimes difficult for me to break free of the office and come out here to witness things such as this. I’ve never seen this before and it’s quite a sight,” said the Launch Director of NASA’s Launch Services Program, Omar Baez.
MAVEN was built by Lockheed Martin, with a large portion of the work conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of California at Berkeley, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center located in Greenbelt, Md. After launch, MAVEN will undertake a 10-month voyage to the Red Planet. The orbiter weighs in at about 1,990-pounds and should enter orbit above the surface of Mars in September 2014.
The ULA Mariner was commissioned in 2002 to transport hardware from ULA’s factory in Decatur, Ala., to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ship is approximately 312 feet in length and is owned and operated by Foss Marine.Missions » MAVEN »