Red Planet under inspection – InSight mission launch planned on 4th March 2016

 

NASA mission under InSight Mars lander program.  Payload are InSight lander and two small satellites MARCO (dimensions of satellite are 36,6x24,3x11,8 cm) providing future communication with lander. ATLAS V will start from Vandenberg with two satellites MARCO A and MARCO B.

InSight backronym stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is NASA mission targeted for gathering data helpful in analyzing early geological processes on Mars. InSight main objective is to help with analyzing Mars structure and how heat escaping from inside of planet in learning about evolutionary processes of other rocky planets; first task after reaching landing site in Elysium Planitia 3.0°N 154.7°E will be recognizing if there is any seismic activity on Mars. It will try to calculate basing on heat flow, size of Mars core and it's state of matter. This data will gather Mars lander, built in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with usage Phoenix lander technology. Operational life with usage of photovoltaic system (providing 450 w of electric power) is planned for two years (one Martian year). InSight length is 5.5 m with weight at 350kg and is offering about 1.7 square meters for science instruments. This space will be filled with such instruments like: magnetometer, wind and temperature sensors, RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment - set of instruments using internal InSight radio to measure rotation of the Mars), HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package - gathering data about heat flow from Mars core to surface utilizing self-penetrating on 5 m depth probe) and SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure - sensor providing information about any seismic activity). Besides lander on 4th March 2016 it is planned to launch something more. Two small satellites (also made by JPL) Mars Cube One (Marco A and Marco B) will provide communication with lander in real time technology. However they will not travel with InSight all the way to Mars, but they will separate from the booster after launch and take course on Mars.

On 4th March United Launch Alliance is going to use Lockheed Atlas V rocket in 401 configuration. It means that with 4 m cargo fairings, at an inclination of 28.5 degrees it will be able to lift 9790 kg  LEO or 4750 kg on GTO. Rocket is liquid fueled, two stage with possibility of adding up to five boosters. First stage is powered by RD-180 engine (built in NPO Energomash in Russia) with 4152 kN and second stage propulsion is one Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 (A or C version) engine with 99.2 kN of thrust.  It will not be first usage of Atlas V (401) in Mars involved mission. In 2005 same rocket launched Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Reconnaissance_Orbiter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RL10
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RD-180
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_V
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InSight
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/insight/main/