Spaceflight Now's ULA’s Atlas 5 is NASA’s go-to rocket for nuclear-powered space probes quotes Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance:
“This rocket is going to leap off the pad with this relatively tiny payload, so do not blink when they say ignition,” said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, the 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that builds Atlas 5 rockets.
Bruno said that the Atlas 5 rocket, set for its 85th flight since debuting in 2002, is healthy and ready for the start of Thursday morning’s countdown.
“Atlas is go, Centaur is go, and we are literally chomping at the bit to take this nuclear-powered dune buggy out to Mars,” Bruno said.
I'm thinking that no matter if it is large or small, the payload is still a very small fraction of a fully fueled rocket's mass, boosters or not, and so initial lift-off acceleration wouldn't necessarily be indicative of the payload mass, but then I realized that since the payload's destination is Mars and the mission requires boosters at lift-off, it may be that the destination is more indicative of lift-off acceleration than the payload mass.
Question: Did the Perseverance rover's Atlas 5 really "leap off the pad"? If so, was it because the payload was tiny, or because it's going to Mars? Which has more impact on lift-off acceleration rate for a given launch vehicle?
Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, poses with the Atlas 5 rocket that will launch NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky