NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched today at 1:28 p.m, EST, Nov. 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket.
The spacecraft has departed Earth and is now on its way to Mars, where it will study the planet’s upper atmosphere.
MAVEN separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage 53 minutes after launch. Soon after, it deployed its two solar arrays and started producing power. Initial communication with the spacecraft was then obtained by the mission’s Flight Operations team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s facility near Denver.
“Early telemetry from the spacecraft indicates that all major subsystems are healthy,” said Guy Beutelschies, MAVEN spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “Launch, separation from the rocket, solar array deployment and initial acquisition are the first critical events of the mission, and they couldn’t have gone smoother. Our team is thrilled that we’re on our way to Mars to help NASA better understand that planet.”
The MAVEN spacecraft will perform the first dedicated mission to survey the upper atmosphere of Mars.
The mission is seeking to understand how the loss of atmospheric gas to space changed the Martian climate. Scheduled to arrive at Mars on Sept. 22, 2014, the spacecraft will spend one year performing its primary science mission.
“Today’s exciting and successful launch highlights the tireless efforts of the entire MAVEN team across many organizations,” said Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “MAVEN draws from a long successful history of previous Lockheed Martin-built Mars orbiters and planetary spacecraft, and our team is pleased to help NASA send another spacecraft to the Red Planet.”
At the launch, Lockheed Martin hosted 20 teachers from the University of Central Florida’s Academy of Mathematics and Science masters programs. The teachers saw first-hand the real-world applications of the math and science involved in building and launching a spacecraft. This effort and other teacher professional development opportunities supported by NASA and Lockheed Martin are focused on helping teachers inspire and encourage student interest in math and science when the teachers return to the classroom.
MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at CU/LASP. The university provided science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. Goddard manages the project and provided two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory provided science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.