A Mission of Firsts: Saalex Supports Successful Mars 2020 Launch

ELVIS 3 Team Supports Perseverance Rover in Search for Life on the Red Planet

Camarillo, CA and Rockledge, FL (July 30, 2020) – Saalex Solutions joins the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system with today’s successful launch of the Mars 2020 spacecraft and its historic payload, the Perseverance Martian rover. Saalex’s Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) team assisted the mission, providing engineering and technical integration as well as launch site and Perseverance rover preparation.

The Atlas V-541 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 4:50 a.m. PDT / 7:50 a.m. EDT. One of the largest rockets used for interplanetary spaceflight, the Atlas V propels Mars 2020 on a nearly seven-month-long journey to the red planet. The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars on February 18, 2021 where it will deploy the Perseverance Rover. Once it reaches the planet’s surface, the rover will begin its study of Martian geology, search for organic compounds, and explore the possibility of generating oxygen from atmospheric carbon dioxide, all critical pieces to the puzzle of whether the planet once supported life and if it could again.

“It’s humbling to be playing an active role in a mission that could answer one of science’s most enduring questions, whether there is other life on other planets,” said Saalex President and CEO Travis Mack. “I continue to be proud of the amazing work our ELVIS 3 team is doing to support these historic endeavors. Both Mars 2020 and the Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch in May demonstrate how Saalex is leading the way to support NASA’s most important and groundbreaking work. We’re honored to be part of the elite team of private and public entities that help make these incredibly complex undertakings a success.”

Saalex’s ELVIS 3 team joined the Mars 2020 mission in 2016 as part of NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) and the program’s contract with United Launch Alliance. In the lead-up to the launch, the ELVIS 3 team developed launch site support procession requirements and prepped the launch site for the arrival of Perseverance at the Kennedy Space Center.

“We’re providing engineering technical integration and mission integration coordination services as an integral part of the Mars 2020 Mission Integration Team and Atlas V launch vehicle team,” explained Kathleen Wilcox, ELVIS 3 Program Manager.

The ELVIS 3 team assisted the Mars 2020 spacecraft launch team by conducting simulations and dress rehearsals. Today, the Saalex team supported the LSP Launch Director, LSP Chief Engineer and engineering launch team on console from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The LSP team comprises 19 Saalex employees who take part in every LSP mission.

The Perseverance rover’s design is based on the earlier Curiosity rover, which is currently exploring the Martian surface. Perseverance is equipped with 23 cameras, two audio mics, and seven scientific instruments, many of which are specifically designed to detect faint traces of ancient life on the surface of Mars. The rover will also be testing new technologies that may be required for astronauts to someday explore Mars and return to Earth.

Nearly eight years and $2.5 billion in the making, the Mars 2020 mission represents several firsts for NASA, including being the first round-trip mission to the planet. Perseverance will be the heaviest vehicle to land on Mars, and for the first time the mission is looking for actual evidence of life rather than just the conditions needed to support it.

“This mission is very cool because it builds on other Mars Exploration Program missions the ELVIS 3 team has supported over the years, the most recent being Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launched in November 2011,” Wilcox said. “The Mars 2020 spacecraft will also include a helicopter called Ingenuity as a technology demonstration as well as to be used to scout future driving routes. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of NASA's Launch Services Program.”