InSight, the first planetary mission to take off from the West Coast, launched at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The rocket is on its way, carrying NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) to begin its (xx-month) voyage to Mars.
What is the inSight Mars Lander?
InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will be the first lander or rover bound for Mars since Curiosity launched in 2011. It will also be the first to dig deep into the planet’s interior in an effort to understand how the planet’s geology evolved over billions of years. The probe will scan for seismic activity, keeping tabs on the planet’s so-called “marsquakes.”
Launch Profile for the inSight Launch
- T+ 0:00 – Lift-off (7:05 AM EDT)
- T+ 4:04 – Main Engine Cut-off
- T+ 4:10 – Booster separation
- T+ 4:20 – Second stage engine start
- T+ 4:28 – Payload fairing jettisoned
- T+ 13:16 – Second stage main engine cut-off (MECO-1) – Second stage and inSight in circular orbit
- T+ 1:15:00 – Second stage main engine restart (8:20 AM EDT)
- T+ 1:19:49 – Second stage main engine cutoff (MECO-2) – trajectory to Mars is achieved
- T+ 1:28:40 – inSight release from second stage (8:38 AM EDT)
- T+1:29:00 – MarCO CubeSat A release
- T+1:29:48 – MarCO CubeSat B release
Live Stream of the Launch
inSight, and its two MarCo A and B CubeSats are on their way to Mars after a successful launch and separation.
What are the MarCO A and B CubeSats
“MarCO-A and B are our first and second interplanetary CubeSats designed to monitor InSight for a short period around landing, if the MarCO pair makes it to Mars,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “However, these CubeSat missions are not needed for InSight’s mission success. They are a demonstration of potential future capability. The MarCO pair will carry their own communications and navigation experiments as they fly independently to the Red Planet.”
During InSight’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) operations, the lander will transmit information in the UHF radio band to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) flying overhead. MRO will forward EDL information to Earth using a radio frequency in the X band, but cannot simultaneously receive information over one band while transmitting on another. Confirmation of a successful landing could be received by the orbiter more than an hour before it’s relayed to Earth.
MarCO’s softball-size radio provides both UHF (receive only) and X-band (receive and transmit) functions capable of immediately relaying information received over UHF.