Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines hauled key parts of the launch vehicle utilized for NASA’s historic, multibillion-dollar mission to Mars. The carrier, which has worked with NASA in the past, employed an AN-124-100 “Ruslan” freighter to execute the task.
According a press release, Volga-Dnepr transported the 118-foot-long Atlas V active expendable launch system from Huntsville, Ala., to Cape Canaveral, Fla. The system, which is manufactured by United Launch Alliance and weighs 25 tonnes, was instrumental in catapulting Curiosity, a car-size rover vehicle that is expected to reach Mars by mid-August.
Vladimir Vyshemirsky, head of Volga-Dnepr’s Engineering Logistics Centre in the UK, said moving such a valuable item is no small task. “To provide services to United Launch Alliance, the utmost punctuality, preciseness and technical discipline are needed,” he said in a statement.
“We conduct meticulous loading and offloading in strict accordance with all technological requirements by using Lockheed Martin equipment that has been specially adjusted for our AN-124-100 ‘Ruslan’ specifications,” Vyshemirsky continued.
Dennis Gliznoutsa, Volga-Dnepr’s group commercial director of charters, concurred, stating that such missions require significant planning. “Their unique character lies in high-technology specificity,” he stated. “While in flight, we maintain design target parameters in relation to temperature and air pressure in the cargo compartment.”
Quality assurance is of utmost concern, Gliznoutsa asserted. Whether loading or transporting the item, he said Volga-Dnepr is attentive to the client’s unique specifications. And the latest mission was no exception, he maintained, although it certainly has implications far wider than the airfreight sector.
“…United Launch Alliance [is] providing services to space mission programs, which broaden the horizons of the whole of humanity,” Gliznoutsa said.