European tech set for Mars rover launch: Page 2 of 3

July 29, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
European tech set for Mars rover launch
A wide range of European technology is set for launch on the Perseverance, the latest Mars rover.

Teledyne DALSA’s Bromont semiconductor foundry also built the JPL-designed CCD image sensor that powers SkyCam, part of the Spanish-led Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) consortium. SkyCam is one of the Radiation and Dust Sensor (RDS) instruments that will monitor sky brightness over time in a variety of wavelengths and geometries in order to characterize Martian dust and the solar and thermal radiation environment. SkyCam will image the sky at varying times as part of the dust study, for cloud tracking and for astronomical imaging.

All the energy needed to operate the sensors and instruments the Perseverance Mars rover is provided by a power system called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) developed by Teledyne Energy Systems in Maryland, US.

“Teledyne’s space imaging heritage is unsurpassed, especially with the number of high TRL devices and the thousands of years of proven space flight. Of course, when it comes to missions to Mars, it as an especially proud moment to think of what the team at Teledyne can accomplish,” said Dr Miles Adcock – President Space and Quantum at Teledyne e2v,

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has also developed pressure and humidity measurement devices for the MEDA system using HUMICAP and BAROCAP sensors from Vaisala in Vantaa, Finland.

The mission equipment complements the Curiosity rover. While working on Mars, the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers will form a small-scale observation network. The network is only the first step, anticipating the extensive observation network planned on Mars in the future.

“Mars, as well as Venus, the other sister planet of Earth, is a particularly important area of atmospheric investigations due to its similarities to Earth. Studying Mars helps us also better understand the behavior of Earth’s atmosphere,” said Maria Genzer, Head of Planetary Research and Space Technology group at FMI.

"We are honoured that Vaisala’s core sensor technologies have been selected to provide accurate and reliable measurement data on Mars. In line with our mission to enable observations for a better world, we are excited to be part of this collaboration. Hopefully the measurement technology will provide tools for finding answers to the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change,” said Liisa Åström, Vice President, Products and Systems of Vaisala.

The long-term stability and accuracy of the sensors, as well as the ability to tolerate dust, chemicals, and harsh environmental conditions, make them suitable for very demanding measurement needs, also in space. The same technology is used in numerous industrial and environmental applications such as weather stations, radiosondes, greenhouses and datacentres.

The Vaisala Humicap humidity sensor is a capacitive thin-film polymer sensor consisting of a substrate on which a thin film of polymer is deposited between two conductive electrodes. The humidity sensor onboard is a new generation sensor, with superior performance also in the low pressure conditions expected on the red planet.

The Barocap pressure sensors was customised to operate in the Martian climate. It uses a silicon-based micromechanical pressure sensor that offers reliable performance in a wide variety of applications, from meteorology to pressure sensitive industrial equipment in semiconductor industry and laboratory pressure standard measurements. Low hysteresis with high accuracy and long-term stability, both essential for measurements in space. 

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