Photos: NASA’s Perseverance rover buttoned up for launch

The Perseverance rover is enclosed within its aeroshell for launch. Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

NASA’s Perseverance rover has been closed up inside its protective aeroshell, the structure that will protect the spacecraft when it plunges into the Martian atmosphere, in preparation for launch no earlier than July 20 from Cape Canaveral.

The six-wheeled Mars rover was connected with its descent stage earlier this year inside a clean room at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians and engineers working amid the coronavirus pandemic affixed the rover and descent system inside the spacecraft’s backshell, then mounted the atmospheric entry vehicle onto the cruise stage, which will shepherd the spacecraft from Earth to Mars.

Some of the final pieces to be added to the rover were the super-clean sample collection tubes that the Perseverance rover will use to gather core samples on Mars for eventual return to Earth.

With the tubes installed, ground crews at the Kennedy Space Center added the rover’s heat 15-foot-diameter (4.5-meter) heat shield to close up the rover inside the cocoon that will protect it during its scorching hot entry into the atmosphere of Mars.

The next step to prepare the Perseverance rover for launch was mounting the spacecraft on the adapter structure that will connect the payload to its United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Those connections are scheduled for completion this week, followed by encapsulation inside the Atlas 5’s bulbous white payload fairing, made by RUAG Space in Switzerland.

Once that is complete, teams will transfer the spacecraft inside the fairing to ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it will be hoisted by crane atop the Atlas 5 rocket around June 26.

In early July, technicians will install the rover’s plutonium power source, which will generate electricity throughout Perseverance’s mission.

Liftoff is scheduled for no earlier than July 20 during a two-hour window opening at 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT). The mission’s launch period extends through at least Aug. 11, and could potentially extended to Aug. 15, according to Omar Baez, NASA’s launch director for the mission.

The rover must launch in July or August in order

The Perseverance rover is a follow-up to NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012. But Perseverance carries a different set of scientific instruments and sports several key technological upgrades, including improved landing navigation to better target a pinpoint touchdown on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano
Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano
Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano
Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano
Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Ab Donnerstag werden die Mitarbeiter der Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility damit beginnen, das Raumschiff in der Payload-Verkleidung der Atlas 5-Rakete zu kapseln, mit der der Rover gestartet wird.

Wenn alles nach Plan verläuft, sollte das Raumschiff bis zum kommenden Montag, dem 22. Juni, in der bauchigen weißen Nutzlastabdeckung des Atlas 5 geschlossen sein. Der Rover wird am 26. Juni von der Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility im Kennedy Space Center zu United Launch Alliance transportiert Laut Mary MacLaughlin, einer NASA-Sprecherin, befindet sich die nahe gelegene vertikale Integrationsanlage an der Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Beim VIF werden das Raumschiff und seine schützende Startverkleidung auf einer ULA Atlas 5-Rakete angehoben.

Bevor der Rover bereit ist, die Rakete zu treffen, planen die ULA-Crews, die fast vollständige Atlas 5-Rakete für eine Countdown-Probe am 22. Juni von ihrem vertikalen Hangar auf Pad 41 zu rollen. Während der Übungsstunde wird ULA den Atlas 5 mit Kerosin füllen. flüssige Wasserstoff- und flüssige Sauerstoff-Treibmittel, um die Rakete vor dem Starttag einer vollständigen Prüfung zu unterziehen.

Credit: NASA/Christian Mangano