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Phoenix Heads for Mars, Spacecraft Healthy

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sun Aug 5, 2007 9:23 am
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(NASA) – The Phoenix spacecraft has separated from the Delta II rocket and ground controllers at NASA’s Deep Space Network have acquired its signal and begun assessing its health. The solar panels that will power the mission’s cruise phase will be deployed and Phoenix will be pointed to best receive solar power and communicate with Earth.

The spacecraft has oriented itself to the sun as it was programmed to do. It will use solar panels to generate electricity during the nine-month coast to Mars. A separate set of solar arrays is attached to the lander itself.

The Phoenix Mars lander’s assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NASA’s Phoenix Spacecraft

Cape Canaveral, Fla., (United Launch Alliance) – United Launch Alliance successfully launched a Delta II expendable launch vehicle today from Space Launch Complex 17A at 5:26 a.m., EDT carrying NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft. This launch marks the second ULA mission conducted for NASA this year.

“With the launch of Phoenix, ULA continues to show its dedication to providing safe, cost-effective, reliable access to space for U.S. government missions,” said Mark Wilkins, ULA vice president, Delta Programs. “As NASA focuses on Mars exploration, ULA is privileged to support this critical mission.”

Phoenix is the first in NASA’s “Scout Program,” which are spacecraft designed to be highly innovative and relatively low-cost complements to major missions being planned as part of the agency’s human Mars Exploration Program. Following a 10-month journey to Mars, Phoenix will collect Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples. NASA’s goal is to study Martian water history and habitability potential in the planet’s arctic ice-rich soil.

The ULA Delta II 7925-9.5 configuration vehicle featured an ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. A spin-stabilized Star-48B solid-rocket motor built by ATK boosted the third stage. The payload was encased by a 9.5-foot-diameter payload fairing.

ULA began processing the Delta II launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala., more than two years ago. In May, the first stage arrived from Decatur, followed by the second stage later that month. The vehicle was erected on the stand at Pad 17A, June 18, with solid rocket motor installation completed in July. Hundreds of ULA technicians, engineers and management worked to prepare the vehicle for the Phoenix mission.

ULA’s next launch, currently scheduled for no earlier than Aug. 28, is the Defense Support Program (DSP-23) for the Air Force aboard a Delta IV Heavy from Space Launch Complex 37 here.

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Huntington Beach, Calif., Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Tex. and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Lockheed Martin-Built Phoenix Spacecraft Lifts Off For Nine Month Voyage to Mars

(Lockheed Martin) – NASA Spacecraft to Explore Martian Arctic’s Icy Subsurface

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, designed and built by Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], was successfully launched this morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:26 a.m. EDT aboard a Delta II rocket provided by United Launch Alliance.

Initial contact with the spacecraft, called acquisition of signal, was obtained at 7:02 a.m. EDT by Lockheed Martin’s Flight Operations team at its Space Systems Company facility near Denver. Mars is 121 million miles away from Earth today, but Phoenix will travel 422 million miles over its 9-month journey.

“Our team is extremely proud to deliver mission success for such long-standing customers as NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” said Jim Crocker, vice president of Sensing and Exploration Systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “We have a distinguished history of delivering Mars missions for NASA and we look forward to seeing the great science Phoenix will discover. The Lockheed Martin, JPL and University of Arizona teams have worked closely together over the last few years to make this mission a success and this morning’s launch is a majestic start to the voyage.”

Phoenix is the first mission of NASA’s Mars Scout Program. Scheduled to arrive at Mars on
May 25, 2008, the spacecraft will land on the icy northern latitudes of Mars. During its 90-day primary mission, Phoenix will dig trenches with its robotic arm into the frozen layers of water below the surface. The spacecraft will use various on-board instruments to analyze the contents of the ice and soil – checking for the presence of organic compounds and other conditions favorable for life.

“The entire series of launch-day events went like clockwork. Launch and initial acquisition is the first of our critical events, and it couldn’t have gone smother,” said Ed Sedivy, spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “I’m thrilled to be on our way. I couldn’t be more proud of the team of women and men whose hard work and tremendous dedication are helping make NASA’s expanded knowledge of our solar system a reality.”

During the next few weeks, engineers from Lockheed Martin, JPL and NASA will perform checkout and calibrations on the spacecraft, and make the first of several trajectory control maneuvers to maintain a course to Mars. Throughout Phoenix’s cruise to the red planet, the team will perform round the clock monitoring of the spacecraft, and will maintain command and control of the spacecraft during its entire mission. The team will also work hand-in-hand with the Science Operation Center based at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“Landing on Mars is the most challenging critical event we execute in planetary exploration,” said Tim Gasparrini, deputy program manager for Phoenix entry, decent and landing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “Now that we are safely on the way to Mars, our entry, decent and landing team will draw upon our decades of experience in exploring the universe and focus its energy on a successful landing and surface science operations.”

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, with project management at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, and development partnership, and flight operations at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of advanced-technology systems for national security, civil and commercial customers. Chief products include human space flight systems; a full range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and communications satellites and instruments; space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; fleet ballistic missiles; and missile defense systems.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2006 sales of $39.6 billion.

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