NASA's next Mars mission buttoned up for launch

Technicians with Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance encapsulated NASA's Mars-bound MAVEN spacecraft on Nov. 2 inside a four-meter diameter payload fairing.

Workers installed the fairing in two halves before latching the shroud together and installing the nose cone's separation system.

MAVEN will use the Atlas 5's "large payload fairing" option, which measures about 14 feet in diameter and 39 feet tall. Built at ULA's facility in Harlingen, Texas, the fairing is made of aluminum skin and stringers with vertical split-line longerons.

The payload fairing protects MAVEN during its stay at the launch pad and shields the sensitive spacecraft during the Atlas 5's initial phase of flight through the lower atmosphere. The fairing will be jettisoned about four-and-a-half minutes after liftoff Nov. 18.

Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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