NASA has chosen United Launch Alliance for the next Mars rover mission set for four years from now.
The Centennial, Colo.-based launch services company will use a four-booster Atlas V rocket to launch the Mars ground probe from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. The NASA contract is valued at $243 million. It covers the launch and related tracking services.
The rover will gather data for geological assessments of the Red Planet’s habitability, natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. It also will gather soil and rock from the Mars surface.
“The mission will build on the achievements of Curiosity and other Mars Exploration Program missions,” ULA said in announcing its award Aug. 25.
“The Mars 2020 rover mission presents new opportunities to learn how future human explorers could use natural resources available on the surface of the Red Planet. An ability to live off the land could reduce costs and engineering challenges posed by Mars exploration.”
Founded in 2006, ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
NASA’s Curiosity launched aboard an Atlas V in 2011, and that rover’s mission to investigate Mars’ climate and geology extends into 2018.