Published : Thursday, April 19, 2018 | 3:23 PM
Engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on NASA’s Mars 2020 mission at JPL have begun Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase of its development, which is on track for a July 2020 launch to Mars.
JPL said the first planned ATLO activities would involve the electrical integration of flight hardware into the mission’s descent stage.
The Mars 2020 rover, as well as its cruise stage, aeroshell and descent stage—a rocket-powered “sky crane” that will lower the rover to the planet’s surface—will be prepared for launch at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility High Bay 1 at JPL.
“(There is) No better place in the world to assemble NASA’s next Mars rover than JPL’s High Bay 1,” said John McNamee, Mars 2020 Project Manager at JPL. “On the floor, you’ll see the components of our spacecraft taking shape—put together by people who are the best in the world at what they do. And on the wall behind them, you will see all the logos of the historic missions of exploration that have also been assembled in High Bay 1 in the past.”
Those previous missions include the Ranger missions to the moon, the Mariner mission to Venus, and Mars Rovers.
Over the next year and a half, engineers and technicians will add subsystems such as avionics, power, telecommunications, mechanisms, thermal systems, and navigation systems to the spacecraft. The propulsion systems were installed earlier this year on the cruise and descent stage main structures.
“Parts of this mission are coming from the other side of the world, and some are coming from just ‘down the street’ in Pasadena, and some are coming from literally down the street—a couple of buildings away,” said David Gruel, ATLO Manager for Mars 2020 at JPL.
Mars 2020 Rover is targeted for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The vehicle will assess the geological characteristics of its landing site on Mars, determine whether the environment is habitable, search for signs of ancient life on the planet, and assess what natural resources, as well as hazards, would be there for future human explorers. Scientists will also use the instruments aboard to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the surface of Mars for a potential return to Earth by a future mission.
The mission will build on the achievements of the Curiosity Rover and other previous Mars Exploration Program missions, and offer opportunities to deploy new capabilities developed by NASA’s Space Technology Program and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, as well as contributions from international partners.
The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages the Mars 2020 spacecraft development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center will manage and oversee the Atlas V launch service for the mission.
For more information about the Mars 2020 mission, visit www.mars.nasa.gov/mars2020.