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News | Feb. 23, 2021

DLA Energy rocket propellant fuels NASA rover to Red Planet

By Irene Smith DLA Energy Public Affairs

Fueled by Defense Logistics Agency Energy-supplied liquid oxygen and rocket propellant, NASA’s rover Perseverance safely touched down on Mars on Feb. 18 after a seven-month, 292-million-mile journey.

Using thrusters fired with DLA Energy hydrazine, the $2.7 billion rover landed in an ancient lake bed called Jezero Crater. The Perseverance is on a two-year mission to find evidence of past life on Mars.

“DLA Energy hydrazine has always been used by NASA for its missions to Mars,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Director of Customer Operations Steve Nichols. “The hydrazine propelled the spacecraft in its cruise stage from Earth to Mars and small thrusters were used to adjust the vehicle’s course. Most of the hydrazine is used to fire bigger thrusters to control entry, descent, and landing on the Martian surface.”  

Landing the one-ton, SUV-size Perseverance was ground breaking. According to NASA, only about 40% of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful. 

Traveling nearly 12,500 miles per hour during its seven-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere, pre-programed commands from its onboard computer guided the aircraft safely to its rugged landing zone.

“Perseverance is different because of new entry, descent and landing technologies, such as Terrain-Relative Navigation,” Nichols said. “This sophisticated navigation system allows the rover to detect and avoid hazardous terrain by diverting around it during its descent through the Martian atmosphere using thrusters fired with DLA Energy hydrazine.”

According to NASA, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is the agency’s ninth mission to land on the Red Planet.

“NASA continues to broaden its knowledge of the universe, and DLA Energy helps it do that,” said DLA Energy Aerospace Energy Director of Supplier Operations Doug Smith. “We supported the spacecraft that flew past Pluto (New Horizons), the Parker Solar Probe that got the closest to the sun and have actually supported landing on Mars not so long ago with the Insight spacecraft as well as studying the origin of the universe with OSIRIS-REx.”  

In July, the Perseverance left earth on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket filled with 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, Nichols said.  

As the Department of Defense Integrated Materiel Manager for space and space-related products since 2001, DLA Energy provides 28 different product sources for a variety of Department of Defense, federal, commercial and research missions.