Red Planet Rendezvous: Mars 2020 Journey Nears Completion

Saalex ELVIS 3 Team Prepares for Historic Landing of Perseverance Rover

Camarillo, CA—After travelling seven months at speeds of nearly 48,000 miles per hour, the NASA’s Mars 2020 mission and its Perseverance Rover payload have nearly reached the Red Planet. Saalex’s Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) team has been following the mission closely, having provided key support to NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) and its contract with United Launch Alliance in the runup to the mission’s launch in July 2020. The Perseverance Rover is expected to touch down at Mars’s Jezero Crater on February 18, at 12:55 PT/3:55 p.m. ET.

“Mission support lasts long after launch,” explained Saalex ELVIS-3 Mission Integration Coordinator Danielle Cottrill. “We are all very excited, as this is the actual end of mission and it’s super cool to be part of something so historic.”

Saalex provided engineering technical integration and mission integration coordination services as part of the Mars 2020 Mission Integration Team and Atlas V launch vehicle team. Prior to the July 30 launch, the ELVIS 3 team developed launch site support procession requirements and prepped the launch site for the arrival of Perseverance at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. The Atlas V rocket that carried the spacecraft on the first leg it its journey is one of the largest rockets to be used for interplanetary spaceflight.

“At the time of the July launch, there was a tremendous feeling of excitement and pride throughout the company in response to our participation in such a high-profile and groundbreaking undertaking,” said Saalex Corp. President and CEO, Travis Mack. “I think that will actually be eclipsed by the reaction I expect from seeing the rover arrive at its destination. This is when the real magic begins. I’m so proud of our ELVIS 3 team for the role they have played what they have achieved in support of this important work.”

When it arrives on Mars, Perseverance will begin searching for signs of microbial life on the planet’s surface. The data the rover collects is expected to advance NASA’s larger mission to better understand the planet’s past and whether it once supported an abundance of life. The rover will collect soil and rock samples that will be picked up and returned to Earth on a future Mars mission. Other planned tests will help pave the way for eventual human missions to both the Moon and Mars. One such experiment is the proof-of-concept Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which will produce oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere, demonstrating a way that future explorers might produce oxygen for rocket propellant as well as for breathing. Perseverance is also carrying the experimental Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which will attempt history’s the first powered flight on another planet.

Over the final days of Perseverance’s approach to Mars, LSP has hosted a series of events to mark the historic mission, which will culminate with “Happy Landing Day,” Thursday, February 18. Interested parties are encouraged to tune into coverage of the landing via the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube Channel or on the NASA Live website. Prelanding coverage will begin at 2:15PM EST.