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Mars Reconnassaince Orbiter Lift-Off
Mars Reconnassaince Orbiter Lift-Off
With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, an Atlas V launch vehicle, 19 stories tall, with a two-ton Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on top, roars away from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:43 a.m. EDT on Aug. 12, 2005.

The launch phase began when the spacecraft transferred to internal power on the launch pad and ended when the spacecraft was declared stable, healthy, and ready to accept commands. Watch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter animation to see a simulation of the launch.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in August 12, 2005 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch took place during Earth's northern summer and during Mars' northern winter. The spacecraft used a Lockheed-Martin Atlas V-401 launch vehicle.

The launch period--the time period in which the orbiter could launch--lasted approximately three weeks (Aug. 10-30, 2005). Throughout the entire launch period, the mission had daily launch opportunities, known as "windows," of at least 30 minutes, the minimum needed for launch.

What Occurred During Launch

Many people think of lift-off as the launch, but there were actually several steps during the launch phase.

Step One: Countdown and systems checks
Step Two: Lift Off through Atlas Stage 1 Booster, which accelerated the spacecraft to supersonic speeds of about 4,500 meters per second (10,000 miles per hour)
Step Three: Booster Engine Cut Off for the Atlas Stage I Booster
Step Four: Atlas Stage I Separation from the Centaur Stage II; Atlas fell back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean
Step Five: Main Engine Start of the Centaur Stage II
Step Six: Centaur First Burn Phase, which lasted nine-and-a-half minutes, boosted the spacecraft into a "parking orbit" in which the spacecraft and Centaur coasted for about 33 minutes between the first and second Centaur burns
Step Seven: Jettison of the Payload Fairing, which fell back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean
Step Eight: Main engine Cut Off for the Centaur First Burn
Step Nine: Centaur Second Burn Phase, which lasted about 10 minutes, accelerated the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and set it on its way to Mars
Step Ten: Main Engine Separation of the Centaur Stage II
Step Eleven: Centaur collision avoidance maneuver, which ensured that the Centaur did not get in the way of the spacecraft or assume a flight path that would cause it to eventually impact Mars

At this point, the launch phase ended, and the spacecraft continued in its cruise phase.

Launch Timeline

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