The team also fueled the rover’s sky crane to get ready for this summer’s history-making launch.
With the launch period of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover opening in 14 weeks, final preparations of the spacecraft continue at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the past week, the assembly, test and launch operations team completed important milestones, fueling the descent stage – also known as the sky crane – and attaching the Mars Helicopter, which will be the first aircraft in history to attempt power-controlled flight on another planet.
The Mars Helicopter, visible in lower center of the image, was attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center on April 6, 2020. The helicopter will be deployed onto the Martian surface about two-and-a-half months after Perseverance lands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Over the weekend, 884 pounds (401 kilograms) of hydrazine monopropellant were loaded into the descent stage’s four fuel tanks. As the aeroshell containing the descent stage and rover enter the Martian atmosphere on Feb. 18, 2021, the propellant will be pressure-fed through 120 feet (37 meters) of stainless steel and titanium tubing into eight Mars landing engines. The engines’ job: to slow the spacecraft, which will be traveling at about 180 mph (80 meters per second) when it’s 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) in altitude, to 1.7 mph (0.75 meters per second) by the time it’s about 66 feet (20 meters) above the surface.
Maintaining this rate of descent, the stage will then perform the sky crane maneuver: Nylon cords spool out to lower the rover 25 feet (7.6 meters) below the descent stage; When the spacecraft senses touchdown at Jezero Crater, the connecting cords are severed and the descent stage flies off.
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