NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Mated to Atlas V Booster, Ready for May 5 Launch: Photos

At Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air
Force Base in California, NASA’s InSight, Mars lander is positioned atop a
United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on April 23, 2018. Photo credit: USAF
30th Space Wing/Leif Heimbold

Ken Kremer     SpaceUpClose.com     1 May 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA’s InSight Mars lander and the Atlas V booster that will propel
NASA’s mission to study the deep interior of the Red Planet have been mated and stand ready for liftoff from
their California launch base later this week on Saturday, May 5, or
Cinco De Mayo. Final prelaunch activities have begun.

InSight
has been encapsulated inside the payload fairing that will protect it from frictional
and atmospheric forces and been hoisted and bolted atop the United Launch
Alliance Atlas V rocket inside the gantry at Space Launch Complex 3 at
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Check
out this gallery of photos of the final processing steps to ready InSight for blastoff
to Mars.



NASA’s Interior
Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight)
Mars Lander is transported to Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force
Base in California. Photo credit: USAF 30th Space Wing/Daniel Herrera







Liftoff
of NASA’s InSight lander is slated for May 5 aboard a United Launch Alliance
(ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket.  The first ever cubesats launching to the Red Planet are also aboard. 

The
May 5 launch window extends for two hours and opens at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) and remains open
through 6:05 a.m. PDT (9:05 a.m. EDT). The overall launch window to the Red
Planet lasts until June 8.






Technicians and
engineers position NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations,
Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) Mars Lander atop a United Launch Alliance
Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California. Photo credit: USAF 30th Space Wing/Leif Heimbold

At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the
United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster is lifted for positioning on the launch
pad at Space Launch Complex 3. The rocket will launch NASA’s InSight spacecraft
for its trip to Mars.  Credit: NASA/Randy
Beaudoin

Launch
week activities have begun !

“Mission
and launch officials gathered Monday for the InSight flight readiness review,”
NASA reported today, May 1.

“Prelaunch activities continue today as launch
team members take part in a countdown dress rehearsal.”

Testing continued on NASA’s Interior Exploration
using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight,
spacecraft on inside the Astrotech processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force
Base in early March 2018.  Credit: USAF 30th Space Wing/Alex Valdez

The
landing is
scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018 at Elysium
Planitia.

The goal of the Interior Exploration using Seismic
Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is to accomplish
an unprecedented study of the deep interior of the most Earth-like planet in
our solar system.

“InSight
will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface, studying
the planet’s interior by listening for marsquakes and measuring the planet’s
heat output.”
Illustration of NASA’s
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport
(InSight) Mars lander.  Credits: NASA

InSight was
designed and manufactured by prime contractor Lockheed Martin
and
is responsible for testing, launch processing and spacecraft flight operations.


The two stage rocket was assembled by ULA technicians inside
the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at SLC-3a and stands 188 feet (57.3 meters) tall. 

The rocket was assembled
inside the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-3. InSight underwent final
processing at the Astrotech facility at Vandenberg AFB after shipment from
Lockheed Martin’s Denver manufacturing facility.



It
will be the first planetary spacecraft to launch from Vandenberg AFB – although
there is no technical advantage or added throw weight to launch from California
vs. Florida.



The 1,530 pounds (694
kilograms)
spacecraft consists of the lander,
aeroshell and cruise stage.



The lander has a mass of about 790 pounds (358-kilograms),
the aeroshell 418-pounds (189-kilograms) and the cruise stage is 174-pounds
(79-kilograms) as well as 148 pounds (67 kilograms) of loaded propellant and
pressurant.



Each of the two MarCO cubesat spacecraft has a mass of 30
pounds (13.5 kilograms).




Watch
for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed
Martin, Orbital ATK and more
space
and
mission
reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing
Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com –
twitter @ken_kremer –
ken
at kenkremer.com



InSight
Lander Solar Array Test. 
While in the landed configuration for the last time before
arriving on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander was commanded to deploy its solar
arrays to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of
the Red Planet. During the test on Jan. 23, 2018 from the Lockheed Martin clean
room in Littleton, Colorado, engineers and technicians evaluated that the solar
arrays fully deployed and conducted an illumination test to confirm that the
solar cells were collecting power.  Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin


Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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