NASA officials plan to replace the Mars 2020 Rovers' heat shield after engineers discovered a jump in structure earlier this month, but managers do not expect any delay in the mission's scheduled implementation time anything more than Two Years
The Space Agency said in a statement released late Thursday that after a week-long test at a Lockheed-Martin plant near Denver on April 12, workers found a rupture around the circular heat shield.
"A After testing the composite structure for a heat shield that was to be used in the Mars 2020 mission, it was revealed that a fracture occurred during the structural tests," NASA said in a statement. "The mission team is working to build a replacement heat shield structure and the situation will not affect the launch date of the July 17, 2020 mission."
NASA said the structural test for Lockheed Martin, who built the heat shield, "The Heat Shield Should Increase by Up to 20 Percent "
" While the breach was unexpected, it illustrates why space flight hardware is being tested in advance so that design changes or corrections can be made prior to launch, "states NASA. 19659003] A NASA spokesman did not respond to questions about the damaged heat shield, and the agency's announcement did not provide an estimate of the cost of a replacement heat shield.
"Following a recent Mars 2020 Rover heat shield test, the teams identified a break in structure," tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, director of NASA's Science Directorate. "I am glad that our standard test procedures have identified the problem and allowed the team to build a replacement without affecting the start-up date."
The Mars 2020 mission must start in July or August 2020 or on the next Mars launch windows in the second half of 2022. The Rover is tasked with taking off from Cape Canaveral with a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers are investigating the cause of the fracture and whether it "The design of the new heat shield for the Mars 2020 mission needs to be changed," it said.
The 4.5 meter heat shield to fly on the mission "Mars 2020" was originally tested in 2008. It was made as backup for the Mars Science Laboratory mission that delivered the Curiosity Rover to Mars in August 2012.
The heat shield and back shell will encapsulate the Mars 2020 Rover during its interplanetary journey from Earth to Mars d Protect the spacecraft during its fiery descent into the Martian atmosphere when temperatures outside the airframe reach 2,100 degrees Celsius.
The Mars 2020 mission uses the same rover and landing system design like Curiosity, but with new scientific instruments, a zoom lens, upgraded wheels, and autonomous navigation software that lets the lander deflect from obstacles such as boulders or steep slopes, increasing the likelihood of successful touchdown.
About 85 percent of the mass of the new rover is based on "historical" hardware based on the technology of the Curiosity Rover, according to NASA.
One of the main objectives of the Mars 2020 rover will be to collect core samples and extract hermetically sealed tubes containing Marsstein, Earth and Ai samples at predetermined "caching" locations where a future rover will pick them up and in a Mars Ascent Vehicle charges, a small booster that blows them into space. A separate spacecraft will bring the samples to Earth for analysis by scientists.
The cruise mission of the Mars mission and the descent phase of the "Sky Crane" are nearing completion at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and final assembly of the rover itself should begin this year.
The rover will carry 42 sample tubes, including spare parts and "blanks" that scientists use to calibrate data and eliminate contamination errors. Mission officials want the rover to be able to collect at least 31 rock and soil samples after landing on Mars in early 2021.
"The biggest technical challenge is the sampling system," said Ken Farley, the Mars 2020 project scientist at JPL, in a presentation to the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group earlier this month. "This is a fundamentally new and very complicated system."
Farley said engineers are also performing additional wind tunnel and probe rocket tests on the supersonic parachute to be used on the Mars 2020.
"It might be a surprise to people that we would do additional parachute testing because when we started, we thought we could use the MSL Heritage Parachute design," Farley said.
But parachute failures while testing NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, an experimental testbed built to measure the performance of a new Mares Re-Entry Vehicle, raises questions about the reliability of the parachute design of the Mars 2020 mission, despite its good performance during The arrival of the Curiosity Rover on Mars in 2012.
The Mars 2020 mission will use a different parachute design than the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, according to Farley, but engineers have stepped up the upcoming Rover's chute to face problems high-altitude testing in 2014 and 2015.
Efforts to return the samples collected by the Mars 2020 rover are expected to be an international endeavor, with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) play an important role
Two space agencies signed on On Thursday, a "Letter of Intent" to investigate concepts for missions to bring samples from Mars to Earth.
"The challenges of going to and from Mars require that they be addressed by an international and commercial partnership of the best of the best," said David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. "At ESA, international cooperation with our 22 member states and other cooperation partners is part of our DNA."
NASA officials outlined a strategy that could lead to the launch of a Fetchrovers and a Mars Ascent Vehicle from Earth in 2026, but details of how the space agencies or companies will build and fund large parts of the mission remain elusive.
"Previous Mars missions revealed ancient riverbeds and the right chemistry that could have supported microbial life on the red planet." Zuberbuchen said in a statement. "A rehearsal would provide crucial progress in our understanding of the potential of Mars for life.
" I look forward to working with and collaborating with international and commercial partners to meet the exciting technological challenges we bring home could be a sample of Mars, "said Zurbuchen.
E-mail the Author
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1