Tuesday, March 13, 2018

NASA’s InSight Lander Arrives at Vandenberg Launch Base for May Blastoff to Mars

Lockheed Martin delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its California launch site on Feb. 28, 2018. The Mars lander was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to Vandenberg Air Force Base where it will undergo final processing in preparation for a May 2018 launch.

Ken Kremer  --   SpaceUpClose.com  --   13 Mar 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA's next mission to Mars, the InSight Mars lander, has arrived at its launch base in California to prepare it for blastoff to the Red Planet in May 2018 - following a two-year postponement to repair a prime science instrument supplied by France.

InSight was flown cross country by a U.S. Air Force C-17 from spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin Space, Denver and delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base on Feb. 28, to begin final preparations for a launch this May.

Liftoff of NASA’s InSight lander is slated for May 5 aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket.

The May 5 launch window 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 Mars lasts until June 8.
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.”

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

"InSight is an amazing spacecraft and we can't wait to see it on the surface of Mars later this year," said Stu Spath, InSight program manager and director of Deep Space Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin Space. "We've worked closely with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to design and build this spacecraft. Its environmental testing is complete, and now the launch team is moving to California to perform final preparations for a May launch."

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

It will be the first planetary spacecraft to launch from Vandenberg AFB.

The 1,380-pound spacecraft, consisting of the lander, aeroshell and cruise stage, was transported inside its environmentally controlled shipping container courtesy of the Air Force Air Mobility Command from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado to the Astrotech facility at Vandenberg for final launch processing. This includes system-level checkout, propellant loading and a final spin balance test.

"The Air Force C-17 crew from the 21st Airlift Squadron gave us a great ride," said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Next time InSight travels as high and as fast, it will be about 23 seconds into its launch, on the way to Mars."

Shipping InSight Mars Spacecraft to California for Launch. Personnel supporting NASA's InSight mission to Mars load the crated InSight spacecraft into a C-17 cargo aircraft at Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, for shipment to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The spacecraft, built in Colorado by Lockheed Martin Space, was shipped February 28, 2018, in preparation for launch from Vandenberg in May 2018. Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin

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

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