The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin mark another significant milestone in the Mars space exploration program as .Lockheed Martin delivered the vehicle that will launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to Mars.  The Atlas V, designated AV-007, arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., where the launch team will now begin preparations for the August 10 liftoff.

The AV-007 Atlas V launch vehicle, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems at its facilities near Denver, Colo., was shipped from Denver to Cape Canaveral in two stages.  The Centaur upper stage was shipped out first on March 29, aboard an Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft and arrived at Cape Canaveral that afternoon.  Two days later, the Atlas V’s booster stage was shipped from Denver to Cape Canaveral March 31.  The Atlas launch team will now begin horizontal processing of the Atlas V booster and Centaur upper stage in the high bay facility at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Launch Complex 41.  The vehicle will undergo a series of subsystem and systems testing to verify flight readiness for the August 10 launch. The testing includes launch vehicle flight control testing, electrical system verifications, propulsion and pneumatic verifications, and interface checks between the booster and upper stage.  When fully stacked, the Atlas V AV-007 launch vehicle with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter safely contained inside the payload fairing will stand almost 19 stories tall at a height of 188 feet.

“This is a very exciting week for all of us on the Atlas program and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team” said James V. Sponnick, Lockheed Martin Atlas program vice president.  “Atlas is taking us back to Mars and this year, in particular, holds a very special place in history for NASA and the exploration of our solar system.  Atlas launched the Mariner missions to Mars in the 1960s, including Mariner 4, the first successful mission to Mars launched on an Atlas in November 1964.  Mariner 4 provided the first ever close-up images of another planet in our solar system during its Mars flyby in 1965.  We are extremely proud of the partnership we have shared with NASA that extends over four decades as we continue the journey of space exploration.”

The AV-007 vehicle uses the basic “401” configuration, with a 4-meter-diameter fairing and no solid rocket boosters.  NASA selected Lockheed Martin and International Launch Services for the Atlas V launch service as well as the design, build and integration of the spacecraft, launch support and mission operations.  This will be the third Atlas mission of the year.  The Atlas series has achieved a record 76 successful flights in a row.

The MRO spacecraft, which will be the largest spacecraft to orbit Mars weighing 4,796 lbs (2,180 kg) at liftoff, is also being built by Lockheed Martin at its facilities near Denver, Colo.  The spacecraft is undergoing final testing and will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center at the end of April for final processing and launch aboard the Atlas V.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.  Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered near Denver, Colo., is one of the major operating units of Lockheed Martin Corporation.  Space Systems Company designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of advanced technology systems for space and defense. Chief products include space launch systems, defense systems, interplanetary and science spacecraft, spacecraft for commercial and government customers, fleet ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.