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CAPE CANAVERAL (United States), November 17, 9:42 /ITAR-TASS/. The launch vehicle Atlas 5 was put on the 41st launching pad at the spaceport on Cape Canaveral, State Florida. On Monday, the rocket will bring into the outer space the satellite MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission), which will head for the Red Planet.
Contrary to Russian launches, where a booster with the docked upper stage rocket and the payload is delivered to the launching pad in the horizontal position, the U.S. rocket envisages vertical assembly and the delivery to the launching pad in the vertical position.
For the time remaining until the launch the specialists of the launching site are to do some pre-launch works (check whether the onboard systems are in operating mode and finalize the mounting works).
The rocket will be fuelled right on the day of the launch, an hour before the planned launch, and the spacecraft installed on the rocket is already fuelled, Lockheed Martin official Randall Sweet said. U.S. Company Lockheed Martin has designed and built the Martian satellite.
Russia is also involved in the Martian mission that will start on Monday, as the Russian enterprise Energomash had built the engines RD-180 for the booster Atlas. The engines of the first stage of the rocket are running kerosene and oxygen, the engines of the second stage (the upper stage rocket Centaurus) use oxygen and hydrogen, the satellite MAVEN has the hydrazine engine.
According to the NASA calculations, the period favourable for the launch of a satellite to the Mars will begin on November 18 and will last 20 days. A two-hour launch window ‘opens’ each day during this period of time. If MAVEN is not launched during this period of time, the launch will have to be delayed for next 26 months until January 2016, when the orbits of the Earth and the Mars will be on the same axis again.
The launch of the booster Atlas 5 with the satellite MAVEN is scheduled at 22:28 Moscow time (18:28 GMT) on November 18 from the 41st launching pad of the spaceport on Cape Canaveral. The engines of the rocket will run for 250 seconds, after that the first stage will separate, and the engines of the second stage will keep bringing the spacecraft in the outer space. On the 53rd second of the flight the satellite will separate from the second stage and will set out on a mission to the Red Planet, which will last ten months.
According to the calculations of the specialists, MAVEN will reach the Mars in September 2014. The main mission of the satellite is designed for one year, during which the spacecraft should find out how and why this planet had lost its atmosphere. The scientists assume that the solar wind is the most probable reason for this fact. For hundred million years the solar wind had been depleting the Martian atmosphere that was caused by a weak magnetic field of the Red Planet.
MAVEN will explore the borderline between the current Martian atmosphere and the outer space, will measure the impact of the solar energy on the atmosphere, the composition of the upper layer of the atmosphere and the speed of its depletion. Chemical, atomistic and energy features of the gases flying away in the outer space from the Martian atmosphere will help the scientists to resolve this problem and to reconstruct the model of the Martian old atmosphere and determine the time, when it started getting thinner. Moreover, MAVEN will help to describe the history of climate change on the fourth planet from the Sun.
The MAVEN main mission will last a year. But the satellite will keep exploring the Martian atmosphere and can operate about six years, after that its orbit will begin degrading and the satellite will finally drop on the Martian surface.
The MAVEN mission budget, including the whole service life of the satellite, makes 671 million dollars.
Presently three more orbital spacecrafts are exploring the Mars and two rovers are working right on the surface of the planet.