CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. --
The U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing provided flawless Eastern Range support for NASA's successful launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 here at 1:28 p.m. Nov. 18.
The rocket flew in the 401 vehicle configuration with a four-meter fairing, no solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
Airmen, Air Force civilians and contractors from throughout the 45th Space Wing provided vital support, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety, medical and public affairs. The wing also provided its vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch on the Eastern Range.
MAVEN is the second mission under NASA's Mars Scout Program. It will take critical measurements of the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
It will orbit the planet in an elliptical orbit that allows it to pass through and sample the entire upper atmosphere on every orbit. The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface.
According to NASA, MAVEN, weighing 5,410 pounds, will take 10 months to reach Mars' atmosphere and is expected to begin orbiting the planet on Sept. 22, 2014. During the mission, MAVEN will examine all of Mars' latitudes and will perform five deep dip maneuvers, descending to an altitude of 78 miles above Mars' surface. This will mark the lower boundary of the planet's upper atmosphere.
"The 45th Space Wing is proud to participate with NASA and our mission partners for this exciting, historic launch," said Col. Robert Pavelko, 45th Space Wing vice commander, who served as the Launch Decision Authority for the mission. "We at the 45th Space Wing continue to assure access to space, and this mission is a yet another testament to all the hard work and teamwork that culminated in a safe, successful launch. Congratulations to all on a job well done," he said.