A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 here at 1:28 p.m. EST today. This was ULA's 10th launch of the year and marks the 41st Atlas V mission and the 76th launch for ULA.
"United Launch Alliance is proud to be a part of this tremendous mission, working closely with the NASA Launch Services Program and MAVEN teams," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. "Missions to Mars are very exciting and over the last decade, ULA launch systems have been entrusted to launch all of NASA's missions to the red planet, including the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and most recently the Mars Science Lab mission with the Curiosity rover."
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a four-meter diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine.
"In just a few days, the Centaur upper stage will celebrate its 50th anniversary since its first successful launch," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. "Centaur has a rich heritage dating back to the beginning of human spaceflight and continues to reliably deliver critical science missions for NASA."
MAVEN will examine specific processes on Mars that led to the loss of much of its atmosphere. Data and analysis will help planetary scientists understand the history of climate change on the red planet and provide further information on the history of planetary habitability.
ULA's next launch is the Atlas V NROL-39 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office scheduled for Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Source: United Launch Alliance
Date: Nov 18, 2013