Flight International online news 11:30 GMT: Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is set to launch today, following a number of postponements due to sensor malfunctions. Today's countdown is currently on schedule for a 12:43 GMT lift off.

MRO take off - BIG

Photo: Nasa

The pumping of liquid propellants into the MRO Atlas V rocket is finished. Approximately 305,000 kg (672,000 lbs) of liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene now fill the powerful booster's tanks. When ignited, the oxygen and kerosene provide enough thrust to accelerate the spacecraft to 40,250 km/h.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's mission is to see if long-standing bodies of water ever existed on the planet. While missions like the Mars Exploration Rovers have shown that water once flowed across the planet's surface, scientists are yet to determine if it was around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

The spacecraft will also examine Martian features ranging from the top of the atmosphere to underground layering. It will also support future Mars missions by characterising landing sites and providing a high-data-rate communications relay.

Source: Flight International