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.
Vaulting away from Cape Canaveral on an unusual southerly trajectory, a Falcon 9 rocket dodged stormy weather and successfully placed an Argentine radar observation satellite into an orbit over Earth’s poles Sunday on SpaceX’s 100th launch.
SpaceX transferred the first astronaut-ready Crew Dragon spacecraft Friday night from a fueling facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where teams will join the capsule with its Falcon 9 launcher for liftoff later this month.
The first piloted test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew capsule has been delayed to early 2018 as designers wrestle with the mass of the spacecraft, aerodynamic loads the vehicle will see during launch, and new software requirements levied by NASA, company officials said.