What is a launch vehicle?
A launch vehicle provides the velocity needed by a spacecraft to escape Earth's gravity and set it on its course for Mars.
||Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
||Intermediate class launch vehicle
Launch vehicle for this mission
The Mars 2020 mission is designed to launch at a time when Earth and Mars are in positions in their orbits that is advantageous for spacecraft traveling to and landing on Mars. This favorable position of the planets means that it takes less launch energy to get to the Red Planet compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits around the sun.
When mission planners are considering different launch vehicles, they consider how much mass each launch vehicle can lift into space. The Mars Science Laboratory mission had a total launch mass, including the intermediate class rocket that lifted it away from Earth, of about 531,000 kilograms (1.17 million pounds).The integrated Mars 2020 flight system is similar in size and mass to its predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Mars 2020 also launches on an intermediate-class launch vehicle.