The window for launching from Earth to Mars opens on July 17. NASA planned to use the date to launch its newest Mars rover Perseverance tasked with finding signs of past life on Mars.
NASA associate administrator Steve Jurczyk shared on June 9, however, that the earliest date launch partner United Launch Alliance can lift off is July 20. The launch date slipped back another two days on June 24 following a “ground support systems issue identified during the packing of the spacecraft into protective fairings that go on top of the rocket.”
As of June 30, however, the current launch target is no earlier than July 30. The original launch target extended through August 5, although NASA and ULA believe they can launch as late as August 15 if needed.
Due to launch vehicle processing delays in preparation for spacecraft mate operations, NASA and United Launch Alliance have moved the first launch attempt of the Mars 2020 mission to no earlier than July 30. A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate. Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August.
Jurczyk described the first hiccup as something related to vehicle processing with ULA’s Atlas V rocket that will be used to launch the Mars 2020 mission cargo into space next month.
NASA is sending an all-new Mars rover to the red planet with the goal of studying its environment and providing data required for sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
What was originally 19-day launch window for reaching Mars from Earth, NASA targeted July 17 through August 5. NASA had 16 days to work with for sending its Perseverance rover to Mars, but the third update left only six days without the expansion.
The newest Mars rover will land on the Martian surface in late February 2021.