Launch Vehicle

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.

Rovers Launched on Delta II Rockets

When mission planners are considering different launch vehicles, what they take into consideration is how much mass each launch vehicle can lift into space. The Boeing Delta II launch vehicle was selected for the Mars Exploration Rover mission because it has the right liftoff capability for the weight requirements and because it's extremely reliable.

The Delta II family of launch vehicles has been in service for over 10 years and has successfully launched 90 projects including the last six NASA missions to Mars: Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder in 1996, Mars Climate Orbiter in 1998, Mars Polar Lander in 1999, Mars Odyssey in 2001, and Phoenix Mars Lander in 2007.

Details on the Launch Vehicle

Deltas are expendable launch vehicles (ELVs), which means they are only used once. The Rover A mission used a standard Delta II 7925 when it launched June 10, 2003. The later Rover B launch on July 7, 2003 needed more energy to get to Mars, so it launched on a Delta II 7925H, where "H" stands for "Heavy." Learn about the launch vehicle differences and the reasons for them.

The Main Components of the Launch Vehicle

drawing of Stage I

Stage I

drawing of Solid Rocket Motors

Solid Rocket Motors

Drawing of the payload fairing

Payload Fairing

drawing of the Stage II

Stage II

drawing of the Stage III

Stage III