Lockheed Martin delivers InSight spacecraft
- March 2, 2018
NASA’s InSight spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space, Denver yesterday and it arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California to begin final preparations for a launch this May.
The launch period for InSight opens May 5 and continues through June 8. InSight will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by listening for marsquakes and measuring the planet’s heat output. It will also be the first planetary spacecraft to launch from the West Coast.
At the Astrotech payload processing facility at Vandenberg, InSight will soon be removed from its shipping container – the first of several remaining milestones to prepare it for launch. Later next week, the spacecraft will begin functional testing to verify its state of health after the flight from Colorado. After that, the team will load updated flight software and perform a series of mission readiness tests. These tests involve the entire spacecraft flight system, the associated science instruments and the ground data system.
InSight will be carried into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket lifting off from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. For a May 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) and remains open through 6:05 a.m. PDT (9:05 a.m. EDT).
InSight will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to map the deep interior of Mars. These waves travel through geologic materials at different speeds and reflect off boundaries, giving scientists a glimpse of the composition and structure of the planet’s interior. They reflect the initial formation of the planet, and the resulting insights into how Mars formed will help us better understand how other rocky planets are created, including our own Earth.
The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission.