Photo Gallery: Rocket assembly
underway for Mars launch
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: September 12, 2011
United Launch Alliance has begun assembling the Atlas 5 rocket that will dispatch NASA's Curiosity rover to Mars in November, commencing a campaign to prepare the copper and white launcher for liftoff.
Workers trucked the 106-foot-long first stage of the Atlas 5 rocket Thursday from the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center to Complex 41, the seaside launch pad from which Atlas vehicles blast off with payloads for the U.S. military and NASA.
The first stage was lifted upright inside the pad's Vertical Integration Facility and placed atop a mobile launch platform.
United Launch Alliance was supposed to start adding four solid rocket boosters around the circumference of the Atlas first stage this week. Ths rocket's Centaur upper stage will be stacked Sept. 20.
The rocket's wet dress rehearsal, which includes a practice countdown and fueling of the launch vehicle, is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Cocooned inside the Atlas rocket's five-meter diameter nose cone, the Mars Science Laboratory will be transported from its clean room at the Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad in November.
Liftoff of the $2.5 billion mission to Mars is set for Nov. 25.
The Curiosity rover will touch down on Mars in August 2012 to begin searching for clues the Red Planet was once habitable for life.
Photo credit: NASA/KSC
MORE PHOTOS OF ATLAS STACKING >