Lockheed Completes Assembly of InSight Mars Spacecraft

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NASA Moves One Step Closer to Continuing Exploration of the Solar System

InSight Spacecraft

NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin announced it has completed assembly of NASA’s InSight Mars Spacecraft. The craft will be the next NASA vehicle to travel to Mars and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the interior structure of the Red Planet.

With assembly completed, the craft will next undergo critical environmental testing. The objective of this testing will be to determine if InSight can survive the 140 million mile journey between Earth and Mars, land, and conduct its critical science mission.

Engineers at Lockheed’s Space Systems facilities in Denver, Colorado, will subject InSight to extreme vibration and noise similar to conditions it will experience during launch. They will then expose the spacecraft to cold and vacuum in order to replicate the trans-Mars voyage. Finally, the test team will simulate what Lockheed describes as “the gauntlet of entry through the Martian atmosphere.”

Additional tests will include reverberant acoustic, separation and deployment shock, and electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing. Testing will wrap-up with a thermal vacuum test, where the spacecraft will be exposed to the temperatures and atmospheric pressures it will experience as it operates on the surface of Mars.

Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, was quoted as saying:

The assembly of InSight went very well, and now it’s time to see how it performs. The environmental testing regimen is designed to wring out any issues with the spacecraft so we can resolve them while it’s here on Earth. This phase takes nearly as long as assembly, but we want to make sure we deliver a vehicle to NASA that will perform as expected in extreme environments.

InSight is a robotic exploration mission that will record measurements of the interior of the Red Planet, giving scientists unprecedented detail into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets. The mission aims to address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science: understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.

InSight is scheduled to launch in March of 2016 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Read the full press release from Lockheed Martin here.

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