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NASA Awards Northrop Grumman Contract to Power Mars Ascent Vehicle 

By Rachel Jewett | March 8, 2021

      A concept of how the NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle, carrying tubes containing rock and soil samples, could be launched from the surface of Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

      NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to provide solid propulsion systems and controls for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) that will be launched in 2026. The cost-plus, fixed-fee contract has a potential mission services value of $60.2 million and a maximum potential value of $84.5 million. NASA announced the award on March 4. 

      The MAV will be launched along with a Sample Fetch Rover that will collect soil and rock samples prepared by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on Feb. 18. Once the vehicles land on Mars, the fetch rover will collect samples and store the samples in the MAV. Then, the MAV will launch back into Mars’ orbit to rendezvous with the Earth Return Orbiter. Northrop Grumman has been contracted to provide its STAR first and second stage high performance solid rocket motors, the first stage thrust vector control system and the second stage spin rockets for the MAV. 

      “We are committed to help build the rockets that will orbit the samples Perseverance collects so they can be returned to Earth,” said Rebecca Torzone, vice president, missile products, Northrop Grumman. “We play a vital role with NASA, as we have for decades, by providing key propulsion and control subsystems in support of human spaceflight and robotic exploration missions.”