ULA Completes Wet Dress Rehearsal of Atlas V Rocket for NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Launch: Photos

ULA Completes Wet Dress Rehearsal of Atlas V Rocket for NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Launch: Photos
Vigorous venting of liquid oxygen LOX observed as joint NASA and ULA launch team conducts countdown demonstration Wet Demonstration Rehearsal on Atlas V rocket on June 22, 2020 to prepare for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover on July 20, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As seen from Playalinda Beach, FL with beachcombers, bathers and birds. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

PLAYALINDA BEACH, FL – The joint United Launch Alliance and NASA launch team completed the critical launch countdown Wet Dress Rehearsal or WDR demonstration test Monday afternoon – thereby achieving a major milestone towards liftoff of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover a month from now on the firms venerable Atlas V rocket.

It was a beautiful sunny day for the WDR test run of the Atlas V booster at pad 41 on the Florida Space Coast this afternoon, June 22.

The WDR is a practice countdown demonstration to fuel and test all systems of the ULA Atlas V rocket to ensure the rockets readiness for launch during the upcoming launch window when spacecraft can launch to the Red Planet from Earth.

Such opportunities are dictated purely by celestial mechanics and only occur every 26 months when the Earth and Mars are properly aligned.

I was on hand to witness the WDR test at Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore as the final cryogenic propellant loading was completed and the test conducted up to the point of ignition at 1:55 PM ET (1755 GMT) today, Monday, June 22, but NOT including ignition of the first stage engines.

Vigorous venting of liquid oxygen LOX observed as joint NASA and ULA launch team conducts countdown demonstration Wet Demonstration Rehearsal on Atlas V rocket on June 22, 2020 to prepare for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover on July 20, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As seen from Playalinda Beach, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

“Today’s #AtlasV test was successfully completed at 1:55pmEDT (1755 UTC). Systems will be safed, cryogenic fuels drained and the rocket allowed to warm up before rollback to the Vertical Integration Facility for Mars 2020 attachment,” ULA tweeted after the WDR test.

A small crowd of beachcomers and bathers were present and a few birds were flying about.

But virtually all were completely oblivious to the rather critical ongoing rocket operation necessary to ensure that NASA’s next Mars rover Perseverance and its Atlas V carrier rocket are fully ready to meet the challenge of launching at the opening of the 3-week-long launch opportunity period which now begins on July 20.

Its just absolutely amazingly special to see a huge rocket sitting virtually on the shore of a public beach.

There is no other place like the Florida Space Coast in the world.

Vigorous venting of liquid oxygen LOX observed as joint NASA and ULA launch team conducts countdown demonstration Wet Demonstration Rehearsal on Atlas V rocket on June 22, 2020 to prepare for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover on July 20, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As seen from Playalinda Beach, FL with beachcombers, bathers and birds. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The WDR – which is run by the team based at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station – does not include a static fire test as SpaceX routinely does for their Falcon 9 family rockets.

“Today’s #AtlasV Mars 2020 Wet Dress Rehearsal is being conducted at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex-41 to test hardware and systems in a real-life scenario. The practice includes virtually all countdown operations and will conclude before engine start,” ULA tweeted.

I observed vigorous venting of the second stage liquid oxygen or LOX during the fuel loading leading up to the WDR conclusion and after it was completed.

 

Enjoy our eyewitness Space UpClose photos of the WDR test.

UpClose view of vigorous venting of liquid oxygen LOX observed as joint NASA and ULA launch team conducts countdown demonstration Wet Demonstration Rehearsal on Atlas V rocket on June 22, 2020 to prepare for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover on July 20, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As seen from Playalinda Beach, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

NASA requested ULA perform the WDR to ensure the Atlas V rocket is ready for the immutable 3 week launch window.

Any delay to the next launch opportunity 26 months later would cost NASA $500 million – and would inevitably be taken from future planetary science missions such as the Mars Sample Return planned for later this decade and would result in a launch delay or potentially cancellation.

Vigorous venting of liquid oxygen LOX observed as joint NASA and ULA launch team conducts countdown demonstration Wet Demonstration Rehearsal on Atlas V rocket on June 22, 2020 to prepare for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover on July 20, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. As seen from Playalinda Beach, FL with beachcombers, bathers and birds. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

Just 5 minutes before finishing the test the launch conductor gave the GO to proceed with the terminal countdown demonstration.

“All systems are “go” as we enter the final phase of the countdown for today’s #AtlasV rehearsal of the @NASAPersevere launch day. ULA Launch Conductor Scott Barney polled the team and ULA Launch Director Bill Cullen gave permission to enter terminal count,” ULA said.

In preparation for today’s test 66,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen LOX and liquid hydrogen LH2 propellants were loaded into the Atlas V rocket 1st and 2nd stages.

 

 

To prepare for the test the stacked Atlas V rocket – minus the payload fairing and Perseverance – was rolled out to the pad on Saturday, June 21 and 25,000 gallon RP-1 propellant was then loaded into the first stage by the launch NASA/ULA team.

RP-1 is a highly refined kerosene that can be stored at room temperature and will remain now on board the rocket through the launch.

In contrast LOX and LH2 were fully detanked and drained today following safing of the Atlas V rocket.

Perseverance is a robotic scientist weighing about 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms).

Scheduled to launch in July 2020, the Perseverance Mars 2020 mission will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will store rock and soil samples in sealed tubes on the planet’s surface for future missions to retrieve, as seen in this illustration. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The car-sized Perseverance Mars 2020 rover is targeted for liftoff on 20 July 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

She is scheduled to touch down in an area of Mars known as Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

The 1 ton rover is nearly a copy of the NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Lab rover still operating on Mars – but with a completely new suite of science instruments and cameras as well as the 1st Mars Helicopter.

Members of the NASA Mars Helicopter team attach a thermal film to the exterior of the flight model of the Mars Helicopter. The image was taken on Feb. 1, 2019 inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Meanwhile Curiosity continues to explore the Red Planet at Mount Sharp since the dramatic touchdown in 2012.

ESA’s plans to launch their ExoMars 2020 rover this summer have been delayed to 2022 in part due to the COVID-19 crisis and resolves parachute landing system issues as well.

Watch my live post ULA Atlas V WDR interview about Mars 2020 rover and more at the American Space Museum ‘Stay Curious’ daily weekday show on June 22, 2020:

 

Space Journalist Dr. Ken Kremer joins "Stay Curious"

Update on Artemis to the Moon with space journalist/photographer Dr. Ken Kremer to help you "Stay Curious."

Posted by American Space Museum & Space Walk of Fame on Monday, June 22, 2020

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Mars 2020, Commercial Crew and Artemis for live reporting of upcoming and recent NASA, ULA and SpaceX launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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

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.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken has created hundreds of widely published Mars rover mosaics and lectures also about NASA’s Mars rovers

Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Jun 24: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX Demo-2 and Starlink launches and NASA/ ULA Atlas V Mars 2020 rover and more launches” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

 

 

Ken Kremer

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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