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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:

Bruno said the mobile clean room set up inside ULA’s vertical rocket hangar allowed ground crews to mount the MMRTG ont he spacecraft in a pristine environment to meet stringent “planetary protection” protocols.

“Planetary protection makes us want to be very very careful that we don’t contaminate the lander with biological (material) because we’re off looking for life on Mars, and if you bring life with you, that kind of messes up that experiment,” Bruno said.

That the RTG was added to Perseverance is discussed in Now that Perseverance is "hot" (RTG in place) and before it gets to deep space, how will it stay cool? but here I see that this appears to have happened in ULA's "mobile clean room set up inside ULA’s vertical rocket hangar".

Question: At what "altitude" did this happen, and what happened next? Did Perseverance get put into the fairing and the fair get closed up on the ground level, and then a crane lifted the sealed fairing up to the top of the rocket, or is the mobile clean room "at altitude" near the top of the rocket and everything happens up there? How did the logistics work in this case?

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    $\begingroup$ "The payload fairing surrounding the Mars 2020 spacecraft atop the Atlas 5 rocket has a large access door, allowing engineers enough room to fit the nuclear device -- which measures a bit larger than a 5-gallon bucket -- through the shroud and mount it onto the rover, " (emphasis by me) So Perseverance was already up there ! "We had configured our Vertical Integration Facility with a portable customized clean room, so that we could bring the rocket there, integrate rhe spacecraft,..." So wasn't the rocket also inside that clean room ? $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Jul 30, 2020 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Cornelisinspace that's interesting! I'm gonna keep an eye out to see if it "leaps off the pad" or not ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 30, 2020 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/q/34354/6944 $\endgroup$ Jan 29 at 14:11

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You can stitch together the Perseverance launch operations flow from online photos. But first, to answer your questions: At what "altitude" did this happen, and what happened next? It happened at the top of the rocket, something like 50 m above the ground. Did Perseverance get put into the fairing and the fair get closed up on the ground level, and then a crane lifted the sealed fairing up to the top of the rocket, or is the mobile clean room "at altitude" near the top of the rocket and everything happens up there? Perseverance was encapsulated in the fairing at ground level in a separate clean room, some miles from the launch site. It was then trucked to the Atlas V vertical assembly building and hoisted to the top of the rocket. A temporary "mobile clean room" was set up at the top of the rocket, inside the building, and the MMRTG was installed inside the mobile clean room.

So back to our story: The rover arrives at the Cape. Note that the MMRTG has not yet been installed. There is a cage-like structure at the rover's far end waiting for it.

https://mars.nasa.gov/system/resources/detail_files/24876_PIA23770-800w.jpg

Here's the rover already integrated with the backshell. You can tell you're looking at the bottom of the rover because the red rocket engines are facing the viewer.

https://mars.nasa.gov/system/resources/detail_files/25003_Pers-DescentAndEntryVehicleKSC-1600x900.jpg

The fully integrated spacecraft about to be encapsulated in the Atlas V fairing. The heat shield is at the top with the backshell below it, together forming the entry system. Note the hatch in the backshell - that's where the MMRTG will be installed. Below the entry system, barely visible, is the cruise stage. The blue panels inside the fairing are intended to absorb the noise of launch.

https://www.dlr.de/content/en/images/2020/3/preparations-for-launch-of-mars-2020.jpg?__blob=normal&v=3__ifc1920w

After encapsulation, the fairing assembly is trucked to the Atlas V launch site and hoisted to the top of the rocket.

https://mars.nasa.gov/system/resources/detail_files/25105_PIA23985-web.jpg

https://www.media.inaf.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/EchCWqTXkAAdyLk-scaled.jpg

The MMRTG gets hoisted up to get installed on the rover.

https://mars.nasa.gov/system/resources/detail_files/3731_msl20111121_installing_mmrtg_2011-7837-full2.jpg

This is a practice MMRTG installation back at JPL, but it gives you an idea of how it's supposed to work...if there weren't a fairing there, anyhow.

https://i.redd.it/ejnxjatnwcq21.jpg

The real MMRTG, way up by the tip of the rocket.

https://www.teledynees.com/MMRTG%20to%20Mars/_w/6%20-%20Spacecraft%20Integration_JPG.jpg

And installed in its handling fixture at the right angle to mate with the rover.

https://www.teledynees.com/MMRTG%20to%20Mars/_w/7%20-%20Spacecraft%20Integration_JPG.jpg

I didn't find any pictures showing the actual MMRTG installation or the mobile clean room.

Finally they rolled the complete system to the launch site:

https://www.spaceupclose.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/3U4A4676_1_Mars-2020_Ken-Kremer-1519x1536.jpg

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DpjuUj8UwAAOJoe.jpg

BTW, this "mobile clean room" sounds like an perfectly ordinary clean tent like this one, but bigger and probably fancier:

https://www.terrauniversal.com/media/catalog/product/cache/image/390x390/9bc3fb4e84c3565ee6a60117a0304867/c/l/cleanroom_valuline_w_model_anna_061412_IMG_3453-700.jpg

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    $\begingroup$ These are really great pictures. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Most, if not all, of the image sources appear fair game for including the picture in this post (not just the link). That would make it easier to digest as a viewer. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ BrendanLuke15: I'm new at this and don't quite understand the etiquette. I was leaving links because I got the impression that references were needed to give credibility to the answer. And perhaps for reasons of copyright as well. Can you give me any pointers? $\endgroup$ Feb 1 at 20:07

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