Mars 2020 launch slips three days

WASHINGTON — A launch car processing “hiccup” has pushed again subsequent month’s launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission by three days.

NASA Affiliate Administrator Steve Jurczyk revealed the delay in a presentation to a joint assembly of the Nationwide Academies’ Aeronautics and Area Engineering Board and Area Research Board (SSB) June 9. “We had a bit little bit of a hiccup with ULA and the launch car processing, so we’re incurring a three-day delay,” he mentioned.

He didn’t elaborate on the problem that brought on the delay, however a spokesperson for United Launch Alliance, which is offering the Atlas 5 used to launch Mars 2020, instructed table4 June 10 that “further time was wanted for the workforce to restore a problem with the bottom system tools.”

Tory Bruno, ULA president and chief government, mentioned on Twitter that an issue with a crane used as a part of launch car processing brought on the delay, a problem that has since been corrected.

The delay pushed again the launch of Mars 2020 to July 20, with a two-hour window opening at 9:15 a.m. Japanese, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Earlier than the launch car processing drawback, Mars 2020 had remained set to launch July 17, the primary day of the general launch window for the mission. That launch window extends to Aug. 11.

If Mars 2020 doesn’t launch by Aug. 11, the mission should wait till the following launch alternative greater than two years later. That’s the principle purpose that NASA elevated the mission to considered one of its highest priorities through the coronavirus pandemic, alongside the SpaceX Demo-2 industrial crew mission.

NASA went to important lengths to maintain Mars 2020 on schedule, together with utilizing company plane to ferry personnel and tools to the Kennedy Area Heart, the place the spacecraft is wrapping up pre-launch preparations, to keep away from any dangers of coronavirus publicity from industrial flights.

Mars 2020, whose rover was named Perseverance earlier this 12 months, is step one in a multi-mission effort to return samples from Mars to Earth. Perseverance will acquire these samples, which will likely be picked up by a rover launched on a second mission. That second rover will place the samples right into a small rocket referred to as a Mars Ascent Automobile, which is able to elevate off from the planet and place the pattern container in orbit. A 3rd mission, an orbiter, will acquire the samples and return them to Earth as quickly as 2031.

Mars 2020 is intently modeled on the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012. “We land in a similar way to Curiosity,” mentioned Adam Steltzner, Mars 2020 challenge chief engineer, at a June 10 SSB assembly. “We’ve added some methods to our touchdown system to make the efficiency even higher,” permitting a extra exact focusing on of the rover’s touchdown website.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA affiliate administrator for science, instructed the SSB at its June 10 assembly that he was not involved about this three-day slip. “We’ve got an extended window forward of us. We all the time begin by focusing on the primary day of the window,” he mentioned. “It’s rocket science, keep in mind.”

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