Volga-Dnepr transported an Atlas 5 rocket booster to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for NASA’s scheduled Mars Rover mission on May 18.

Volga-Dnepr used the AN-124-100 ‘Ruslan’, which is the only aircraft large enough to carry the Atlas 5, and flew the 32-meter long rocket booster, from Huntsville, Alabama to its final launch location. In addition to the over-length piece, Volga-Dnepr also transported payload fairings and RD-180 engines for the special mission.

After unloading the unique cargo piece from the aircraft, ULA moved the rocket into the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center for post-shipment checks.

The high profile delivery signalled the start of a new phase of launch preparations for the Perseverance Rover, the centrepiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars 2020 mission. The launch is scheduled at 9:10 am on July 17.