Lockheed Readies MAVEN Spacecraft for Testing


On Friday, Lockheed Martinannounced that it has completed assembly of, and begun a six-month period of environmental testing on NASA's "Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN," or MAVEN, spacecraft, an orbiter that aims to confirm the rate at which Mars is losing its atmosphere, and figure out how the planet's upper atmosphere has changed over time.

Lockheed will now conduct a battery of "rigorous tests that simulate the extreme temperatures, vacuum, and vibration" MAVEN will encounter on its mission. Then, if all goes well, the company will hand off MAVEN to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in early August for final preparations for launch.

MAVEN is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in November, and it should arrive in orbit around Mars about a year later.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $485 million.

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