Sunday, October 27, 2013

MAVEN Spacecraft Fueled for Flight to Mars

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers and technicians perform a spin test of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft. The operation is designed to verify that MAVEN is properly balanced as it spins during the initial mission activities. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

At Kennedy Space Center on Friday, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft was fueled for its mission to Mars, which is scheduled to begin with a Nov. 18 blastoff from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas V rocket. Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, Lockheed Martin personnel planned to load the Mars orbiter with 431 gallons of highly toxic hydrazine propellant. The propellant will help MAVEN stay on course to reach orbit around Mars next September, complete a one-year science mission and then serve as a communications relay for rovers on the surface.

Short for “Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN,” the MAVEN mission will study Mars’ upper atmosphere to better understand how the Red Planet’s climate changed from warm and wet to cold and dry, due to the loss of atmospheric gases. MAVEN will be the first spacecraft to study Mars' upper atmosphere.

The spacecraft earlier this week completed a spin test to ensure it is balanced properly.

MAVEN is set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket during a 20-day launch period beginning November 18. The one-year mission begins in Sept. 2014, when the spacecraft reaches Mars orbit.

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