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News | Aug. 6, 2020

DLA Energy fuels Mars rocket launch

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

Carrying equipment destined for Mars, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket fueled by Defense Logistics Agency Energy blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, July 30.

The rocket carried the $2.7 billion NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in to space on a 300-million-mile voyage. The Perseverance is on an ambitious voyage to Mars to find signs of life that may have existed billions of years ago. 

“The Atlas V first stage booster was fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket propellant,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Director of Customer Operations Steve Nichols. “We provided 26,000 gallons of RP-1 along with 300 pounds of high purity hydrazine for the upper stage booster and 1,000 pounds of high purity hydrazine for the spacecraft.”  

From missions to the Moon, Pluto and Mars, DLA Energy has fueled some of the world’s most significant space launch missions. 

Melanie Mueller is the branch chief for DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Space Launch Support. Her team manages and delivers products that support launch platforms at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; and Wallops Island, Virginia. Products include liquid oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, rocket propellants for lower stage booster, and hypergolic fuels like hydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide used in upper stage boosters and in the spacecraft itself.  

“It’s not just the launch we support, but all the efforts which go into planning and final execution,” Mueller said. “Our team members participate in several working-level discussions on a regular basis with the space launch community to cover topics such as product integrity, storage, and safe movement of products.” 

They work closely with customers through multiple phases to include thruster prototyping, engine testing at smaller facilities, on site testing, launch wet dress rehearsals, and final launch. 

“Because we have established strong partnerships over the years, COVID-19 has not impacted our ability to provide top-notch seamless support to our customers,” Mueller said.  

Perseverance is expected to land on Mars in February 2021. According to NASA, the rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.

“Watching the successful launch, while sharing a group text with my team, was amazing,” Mueller said. “We were all excited to witness this historic moment realizing the epic accomplishment achieved through our strong partnerships with our DOD, commercial, and federal civilian space customers.”

Some of DLA Energy’s Aerospace Energy employees saw the Perseverance Rover under construction when they toured NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2018.

“The timeline on these launches are long and seeing it come to fruition in an event like this is fantastic,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Director of Supplier Operations Doug Smith who was on the JPL tour. “The hard work and dedication of the staff coupled with their attention to detail really pays off on missions like this. I’m proud of the team and look forward to following the Perseverance journey to Mars.”

As the Department of Defense Integrated Materiel Manager for space and space-related products since 2001, DLA Energy has provided fuel sources for a variety of Department of Defense, federal, commercial and research missions. In March, Aerospace Energy supported the U.S. Space Force’s first mission sending a military communications satellite into orbit.

Visit NASA’s website to learn more about its Mars exploration program.