Press Release

ULA’s Atlas V Successfully Launched Mars Science Lab November 2011

By SpaceRef Editor
August 6, 2012
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ULA’s Atlas V Successfully Launched Mars Science Lab November 2011

Centennial, Colo., (Aug. 6, 2012) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) congratulates NASA on the flawless landing of the Mars Science Lab (MSL) on the surface of Mars after a nearly nine-month journey to the red planet.

“ULA applauds NASA’s MSL team on the remarkable technical achievements witnessed today as MSL touched down to begin its science mission on the Martian surface,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. “We could not be more proud of our role in safely and accurately delivering MSL and the Curiosity rover to orbit and look forward to the tremendous science that Curiosity will collect along with the yet unknown discoveries it will make.”

Officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., had prepared for a possible course-correction maneuver 15 days after launch, but navigators determined the trajectory was spot-on and did not need the maneuver.

“This was among the most accurate interplanetary injections ever,” said Louis D’Amario, mission design and navigation manager for Mars Science Lab during an interview in December 2011. In celebration of MSL’s landing, ULA hosted an event for 300 school-age children where future rocket scientists conducted simulated launch countdowns and MSL mission landings to learn about the importance of this science mission, as well as to generate excitement about pursuing science, technology and engineering careers.

The MSL mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Nov. 26, 2011 aboard an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Atlas V 541 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter diameter RUAG Space payload fairing along with four Aerojet solid rocket motors attached to the Atlas booster. The Atlas booster was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL10A engine.

“This was an impressive launch on the Atlas V,” said Amanda Mitskevich, program manager of NASA’s Launch Services Program. “The teamwork between NASA’s Launch Services Program, ULA and JPL made for an almost seamless integration and perfect launch of this historic mission.”

Developed by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads, the commercially developed EELV Program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

ULA’s next launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is the Atlas V Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission for NASA scheduled August 23 from Space Launch Complex-41. ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at and

SpaceRef staff editor.