Lockheed Martin and NASA launched a spacecraft Monday that is scheduled to arrive at Mars in September 2014 for a one-year study of the red planet’s upper atmosphere.
The MAVEN spacecraft lifted off at 1:28 Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket, the company said Monday.
Once on Mars, MAVEN will work to figure out how the planet’s climate changed due to the loss of atmospheric gas to space changed the planet’s climate.
“Early telemetry from the spacecraft indicates that all major subsystems are healthy,” said Guy Beutelschies, Lockheed MAVEN spacecraft program manager.
MAVEN separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage after 53 minutes and deployed two solar arrays to start producing, then the flight operations team at Lockheed’s Denver facility obtained initial communications from the spacecraft.
“Launch, separation from the rocket, solar array deployment and initial acquisition are the first critical events of the mission,” Beutelschies said.
Twenty teachers from masters programs at the University of Central Florida’s Academy of Mathematics and Science attended the launch.