LEHIGH VALLEY, PA — Air Products is headed to Mars – well, sort of – as on Saturday (May 5) it continued its long collaboration in providing vital industrial gases to NASA and the U.S. Space Program with the successful launch and first-ever mission to study the heart of the Red Planet. NASA’s mission to Mars, Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), launched Saturday morning from the West Coast’s Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, all along with an assist from Air Products.
“Air Products has again proudly played a key role as it has for decades with NASA space exploration in supporting today’s mission and its goals which mark a new era in deep space travel. For over 60 years Air Products has had a working relationship with the space program. Today’s lift-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California adds to our landmark list of support for milestone NASA space missions by providing a reliable supply of industrial gases and other services integral to its success,” said Marie Ffolkes, president – Industrial Gases Americas at Air Products.
Air Products supplied vital industrial gases for ULA’s Atlas V Rocket, which will help carry InSight on its six-month journey to Mars, set to arrive at the planet in November. Air Products supplied its proprietary helium pumping system, the only one-of-its-kind in the industrial gas industry, which is key to the pressurization of helium, as well as the helium for the mission used for pressurization and purging of the fuel propellant tanks, and also provided liquid nitrogen for rocket instrument purging, and liquid oxygen as part of the overall rocket fuel mix.
Ffolkes added that Air Products’ long space travel history has also included fueling and providing technical services to NASA travels of the Orion, the Space Shuttle, Apollo, and earlier Mercury missions. Air Products is also heavily involved in supporting the increasing number of space launches and missions of several independent companies.
InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. Air Products has supplied nitrogen at Huntsville for several decades. NASA has reported that InSight will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface to help scientists understand how different its crust, mantle and core are from the Earth’s. The mission will also focus on the planet’s heat output and listen for marsquakes, which are seismic events like earthquakes on Earth. Findings from the mission may help to gain a better understanding of how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created.
Air Products in the U.S. has always been prideful of its collaboration and support of NASA missions, and with this mission, global colleagues can also celebrate the company’s participation. The Mars mission has several European partners, including France's space agency, the Centre National d'Étude Spatiales, and Germany’s DLR, all supporting the mission. Air Products has operations in France and Germany, among the more than 50 countries where the company has industrial gas operations.
Air Products’ working relationship with NASA began in 1957 with the commissioning of an industrial gas plant in Ohio, and has since included supplying NASA with liquid hydrogen and other industrial gases for advancing the U.S. Space Program. In addition to product supply to the space launches, Air Products also has had a long-term relationship with NASA’s engine testing program at Stennis Space Center in Miss., Johnson Space Center in Tex., as well as Marshall Space Flight Center.
Air Products is an industrial Gases company in operation for over 75 years. The company’s core industrial gases business provides atmospheric and process gases and related equipment to manufacturing markets, including refining and petrochemical, metals, electronics, and food and beverage. Air Products is also the world’s leading supplier of liquefied natural gas process technology and equipment. The company had fiscal 2017 sales of $8.2 billion from continuing operations in 50 countries and has a current market capitalization of about $35 billion.