Space

May 21, 2014

Construction to begin on NASA Mars lander scheduled to launch in 2016

NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review May 16.

NASA’s Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior. The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments never before used on Mars.

InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the central California coast near Lompoc, in March 2016. This will be the first interplanetary mission ever to launch from California. The mission will help inform the agency’s goal of sending a human mission to Mars in the 2030′s.

InSight team leaders presented mission-design results this week to a NASA review board, which approved advancing to the next stage of preparation.

“Our partners across the globe have made significant progress in getting to this point and are fully prepared to deliver their hardware to system integration starting this November, which is the next major milestone for the project,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California. “We now move from doing the design and analysis to building and testing the hardware and software that will get us to Mars and collect the science that we need to achieve mission success.”

To investigate the planet’s interior, the stationary lander will carry a robotic arm that will deploy surface and burrowing instruments contributed by France and Germany. The national space agencies of France and Germany — Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) — are partnering with NASA by providing InSight’s two main science instruments.

The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) will be built by CNES in partnership with DLR and the space agencies of Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It will measure waves of ground motion carried through the interior of the planet, from “marsquakes” and meteor impacts. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, from DLR, will measure heat coming toward the surface from the planet’s interior.

“Mars actually offers an advantage over Earth itself for understanding how habitable planetary surfaces can form,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator from JPL. “Both planets underwent the same early processes. But Mars, being smaller, cooled faster and became less active while Earth kept churning. So Mars better preserves the evidence about the early stages of rocky planets’ development.”

The three-legged lander will go to a site near the Martian equator and provide information for a planned mission length of 720 days — about two years. InSight adapts a design from the successful NASA Phoenix Mars Lander, which examined ice and soil on far-northern Mars in 2008.

“We will incorporate many features from our Phoenix spacecraft into InSight, but the differences between the missions require some differences in the InSight spacecraft,” said InSight Program Manager Stu Spath of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Denver, Colorado. “For example, the InSight mission duration is 630 days longer than Phoenix, which means the lander will have to endure a wider range of environmental conditions on the surface.”

Guided by images of the surroundings taken by the lander, InSight’s robotic arm will place the seismometer on the surface and then place a protective covering over it to minimize effects of wind and temperature on the sensitive instrument. The arm will also put the heat-flow probe in position to hammer itself into the ground to a depth of 3 to 5 yards (2.7 to 4 1/2 meters).

Another experiment will use the radio link between InSight and NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas on Earth to precisely measure a wobble in Mars’ rotation that could reveal whether Mars has a molten or solid core. Wind and temperature sensors from Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia and a pressure sensor will monitor weather at the landing site, and a magnetometer will measure magnetic disturbances caused by the Martian ionosphere.

InSight’s international science team is made up of researchers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program of competitively selected mission. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program. Lockheed Martin will build the lander and other parts of the spacecraft at its Littleton, Colo., facility near Denver.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines October 20, 2014

News: Navy grounds ‘Top Guns’ - The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives.   Business: Boeing seeks revised schedule for U.S. aerial tanker - Boeing is revising its master schedule for developing the new U.S. Air Force...
 
 

News Briefs October 20, 2014

New military medical team to help with Ebola in U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to prepare and train a 30-member medical support team that could provide short-term help to civilian health professionals if there are more Ebola cases in the United States. His spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the team...
 
 

Dragon ‘fires up’ for flight

The Air Force and NATO are undergoing a cooperative development effort to upgrade the avionics and cockpit displays of AWACS aircraft belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the NATO E-3 Sentrys from Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation, otherwise...
 

 
Boeing photographs

Boeing-built X-37B successfully completes third flight

Unmanned spacecraft concludes record-setting 674-day mission   Boeing photograph A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg...
 
 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

AF to release small business research solicitations

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program office is set to release its fiscal year 2015 list of topics Oct. 22, on the SBIR/STTR website.  Small businesses and research institutions with expertise to address the topics’ technology challenges are encouraged to submit proposals. During 2014, the Defense Department SBIR...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>