Spaceflight Insider

NASA’s Mars InSight spacecraft delivered in preparation for flight

The crated InSight spacecraft being loaded into a C-17 cargo aircraft at Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, for shipment to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The crated InSight spacecraft being loaded into a C-17 cargo aircraft at Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, for shipment to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

On Dec. 16, 2015, Lockheed Martin delivered the 1,380 lbs (626 kg) InSight (Interior Exploring using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California from Buckley Air Force base in located in Colorado. The delivery of the spacecraft was an important milestone in terms of getting the spacecraft to the Red Planet.

Lockheed Martin and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had been working on the lander’s internal design and to complete the spacecraft’s environmental testing. Now that these stages of the lander’s development are complete, InSight can be prepared for its launch in March of 2016 on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket.

InSight spacecraft solar array deployment

InSight is currently slated to launch in 2016. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

The InSight lander was actually delivered about a month early in order to provide more preparation time to attach the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) from the French Space Agency (CNES).

The InSight lander is composed of two experimental instruments the SEIS and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) from the German Space Agency (DLR).

The SEIS will look at the seismic waves that are traveling through the interior of the Red Planet. These measurements will be used to determine Mars’ composition and interior structure. The HP3 will attempt to penetrate itself into Mars’ surface and measure the thermal conductivity in the planet’s interior.

The HP3 should allow researchers to determine the precise amount of heat that escapes from the planet’s interior. The InSight lander is the next step in terms of the exploration and NASA’s plans to send crews to the Red Planet.

After its launch, currently slated to take place in March 2016, the lander should reach Mars in about 6 months landing in September of 2016.

Once InSight lands and digs beneath the planet’s surface, researchers should be able to find clues and scientific information about the formation process of this terrestrial planet. Since there is little environmental activity on Mars, analyzing this planet’s seismology and heat flow could provide more information on its formation than analyzing a planet as geologically active as Earth would.

Through this mission, researchers hope to be able to learn more about the evolution and formation of terrestrial planets and determine the tectonic activity within Mars’ interior.

“We’ve worked closely with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design and build an amazing spacecraft, one that is based on our Mars Phoenix design that successfully landed on Mars in 2008,” said Stu Spath, InSight program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “The spacecraft and its environmental testing are complete, and now the launch team is moving to California to perform final preparations for a March launch.”

Video courtesy of NASA


Amoree Hodges

Amoree Hodges is a SpaceFlight Insider Launch Correspondence volunteer who hails from the Florida Institute of Technology, where she is currently working to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Amoree loves telescopes and all things that are related to space, and NASA.

Hodges is planning on a career in public science communications, and will be using her internship with SpaceFlight Insider to gain greater science and engineering communications experience while she works on completing her studies.



Founded at the very dawn of the Space Race in 1958, the Florida Institute of Technology is the only independent, technological university located in the Southeast. Times Higher Education ranks Florida Tech in the Top 200 Universities in the World. The university has been designated a Tier One Best National University in U.S. News & World Report, and is one of just nine schools in Florida lauded by the 2014 Fiske Guide to Colleges. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. Fields of study include science, engineering, aeronautics, business, humanities, mathematics, psychology, communication and education.

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