Next NASA Mars lander assembly begun by Lockheed Martin

DENVER. Lockheed Martin engineers working on the NASA InSight Mars lander spacecraft, have begun work on the assembly, test, and launch operations (ATLO) phase of the program. Launch is scheduled for spring of 2016.

The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) program's mission is to record the first-ever measurements of the interior of Mars, providing scientists with detail into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets.

ATLO covers environmental testing and concludes with the launch. During the next six months, Lockheed Martin technicians will install subsystems such as power, avionics, thermal systems, telecomm, mechanisms, and guidance, navigation and control. Mission partners will also deliver science instruments to Lockheed Martin for integration.

Assembly has also begun on the spacecraft’s protective aeroshell capsule and cruise stage (which enables communications and power during the trip to Mars. Once spacecraft assembly is complete, it will undergo environmental testing next summer.

“The spacecraft has a lot of heritage from Phoenix and even back to the Viking landers, but the science has never been done before at Mars,” says Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Physically, InSight looks very much like the Phoenix lander we built, but most of the electronic components are similar to what is currently flying on the MAVEN spacecraft.”

Bruce Banerdt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) leads the InSight mission with a science team that includes U.S. and international co-investigators from industry, universities, and government agencies. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French space agency (CNES) are also participating by providing an instrument to the two-year scientific mission.