A United Launch Atlas 5 rocket is set to dispatch NASA’s InSight lander toward Mars, kicking off an interplanetary journey from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The 188-foot-tall (57-meter) rocket, propelled by an RD-180 main engine, is set for liftoff during a two-hour launch window Saturday that opens at 4:05 a.m. EDT (7:05 a.m. EDT; 1105 GMT).
The InSight mission will be the 78th flight of an Atlas 5 rocket, and the fourth Atlas 5 launch of 2018.
The Atlas 5 rocket will lift off from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, flying in the “401” configuration with no solid rocket boosters and a four-meter-diameter payload fairing.
mission preview story for details on the launch.
Credit: United Launch Alliance
After igniting its RD-180 main engine at T-minus 2.7 seconds, the Atlas 5 rocket climbs away from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with 860,000 pounds of thrust.
T+0:01:17.8: Mach 1
The Atlas 5 rocket exceeds the speed of sound, flying to the south-southeast from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Atlas 5 rocket passes through the region of maximum dynamic pressure during ascent through the lower atmosphere.
T+0:04:04.3: Booster Engine Cutoff
The RD-180 main engine completes its firing after consuming its kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel supply in the Atlas first stage.
T+0:04:10.3: Stage Separation
The Common Core Booster first stage of the Atlas 5 rocket separates from the Centaur upper stage. Over the next few seconds, the Centaur engine liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen systems are readied for ignition.
T+0:04:20.3: Centaur Ignition 1
The Centaur RL10C-1 engine ignites for the first of three upper stage firings. This burn will inject the Centaur stage and the InSight spacecraft into an initial parking orbit.
T+0:04:28.3: Payload Fairing Jettison
The Atlas 5’s 4-meter-diameter (13-foot) payload fairing separates in a clamshell-like fashion once the rocket climbs into the rarefied upper atmosphere.
T+0:13:16.2: Centaur Cutoff 1
The Centaur engine shuts down after arriving in a planned low-Earth parking orbit. The vehicle enters a nearly 66-minute coast period before arriving at the required location in space for the second burn.
T+1:18:56.9: Centaur Ignition 2
Producing 22,900 pounds of thrust, the Centaur re-ignites to accelerate the InSight payload with enough velocity to escape Earth’s gravitational bond. This burn lasts 5 minutes, 23 seconds.
T+1:24:19.8: Centaur Cutoff 2
The second Centaur firing places the InSight payload on an Earth escape trajectory. After engine shutdown, the Centaur stage will begin re-orienting for deployment of InSight.
T+1:33:19.8: InSight Separation
The 1,530-pound (694-kilogram) InSight spacecraft deploys from the Centaur upper stage.
T+1:33:53.8: MarCO-A Separation
The first of NASA’s Mars Cube One satellites, designed to relay communications from InSight during its landing on Mars, releases from an aft bulkhead carrier on the Centaur stage.
T+1:34:41.8: MarCO-B Separation
The second of NASA’s Mars Cube One spacecraft is released from the Centaur’s aft bulkhead carrier.
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