European tech set for Mars rover launch

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.

The launch tomorrow afternoon CET will see NASA’s Perseverance landing on Mars in February 2021.

IR HiRel, an Infineon Technologies company, supplied thousands of mission-critical radiation-hardened components for the Mars rover. It also supplied the Opportunity and Spirit rovers in 2004, and Curiosity in 2012.

“IR HiRel has been privileged to supply high-reliability power conversion solutions in space programs over the decades,” said Eric Toulouse, Vice-President and General Manager of IR HiRel. “The Mars Perseverance launch marks another important milestone in space exploration, and we are honoured to have our semiconductor technologies used to power up this spacecraft.”

Several subsystems in the Mars rover, including the flight computer, motor control, radar, and mission instrument suite, integrate rad hard MOSFETs, ICs and other power control products.

Specific instruments on the latest Mars rover using IR HiRel semiconductors include the Mastcam-Z, a mast-mounted HD imaging camera system with panoramic, stereoscopic and zoom capabilities as well as SuperCam, which combines a camera, laser and spectrometers searching for organic compounds potentially related to past life on Mars.

The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) will look for signs of past Martian microbial life while the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), a UV spectrometer for fine-scale detection of minerals, organic molecules and possible biosignatures and the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) also use the IR Hirel parts.

Space grade CCD42-10 image sensors from Teledyne e2v in Chelmsford, ULK, are also part of SuperCam and SHERLOC.

The CCD42 was used for the ChemCam instrument on-board NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. This version of the CCD42 family for Perseverance has a full frame architecture. Back illumination technology, in combination with an extremely low noise amplifier, make the device suitable for the spectroscopy required by the SuperCam and SHERLOC instruments.

Next: Sensor tech on the Mars rover

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