NASA’s InSight Mars lander shipped to launch site, prepares for March mission

Lockheed Martin has just delivered NASA’s InSight spacecraft to its launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The lander will now undergo final processing in preparation for a March launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.

The InSight lander, once it embarks on its mission in March, will study the deep interior of Mars and will address one of the most fundamental questions of planetary and solar system science: how did the planets form? The mission will help scientists understand the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system more than four billion years ago.

The lander underwent a final solar array deployment test in a clean room at Lockheed Martin. (Image Credit: Lockheed Martin)
The lander underwent a final solar array deployment test in a clean room at Lockheed Martin. (Image Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin designed and built the 1,380-pound spacecraft, which consists of the lander, aeroshell and cruise stage,and is responsible for testing, launch processing and mission operations.

The lander was scheduled to arrive in January, but the delivery date was moved up three weeks so that the team has more time to integrate the seismometer instrument (SEIS) developed by the French Space Agency, CNES.

“We’ve worked closely with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design and build an amazing spacecraft, one that is based on our Mars Phoenix design that successfully landed on Mars in 2008,” said Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “The spacecraft and its environmental testing are complete, and now the launch team is moving to California to perform final preparations for a March launch.”

From now until March the spacecraft will undergo final processing including the installation and testing of the SEIS instrument, system-level checkout, propellant loading and a spin balance test.

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