December 8 - Parts of the launch vehicle for NASA's most ambitious rover mission to Mars, successfully launched into orbit on November 26, were delivered to the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida by Volga-Dnepr Airlines.

The Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity' will take eight-and-a-half months to reach its destination. Onboard is a car-sized rover vehicle that will scour soil and rocks for any signs of current or past environments on the planet that could have supported life.

In support of the mission, a Volga-Dnepr AN-124-100 freighter aircraft safely delivered the Atlas V active expendable launch system, part of the Atlas rocket family operated by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture, United Launch Alliance. The flight departed from Huntsville, Alabama, for Cape Canaveral.

Since 1997, Volga-Dnepr has provided transportation services for the U.S. space launch programme. In addition to delivering the Atlas V launch system, the airline has also carried the Russian-built RD-180 engines used in Atlas V from Moscow via Denver to Cape Canaveral.

Dennis Gliznoutsa, Group Commercial Director (Charters) for Volga-Dnepr, said: "These shipments demonstrate that Volga-Dnepr's fleet of AN-124-100 aircraft, with their unique operating capability, are able to deliver the most technically complex cargo shipments in accordance with the most specific requirements of our clients."