Electrical switching & drive systems & components


Mars rover driven by maxon motors

January 2012 Electrical switching & drive systems & components

In the eighth year of its Mars expedition, the Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that water once existed on Mars. According to briefings by NASA, in late 2011 the rover found a vein of a notably light coloured mineral – apparently gypsum – deposited by flowing water. For scientists, the gypsum deposits are a sensation. They are convinced that the discovery proves that water once flowed at this site. On its way through the desolate Meridiani plane, the rover came across the light coloured streaks in the ground by chance. An analysis of the minerals should help scientists better understand the geological history of Mars.

Opportunity has covered approximately 35 kilometres and, in the process, transmitted almost 162 400 images of the surface and the atmosphere of the Red Planet to the mission control centre in Pasadena, California.

Motors manufactured by maxon motor ensure that the Mars rover is able to safely navigate the surface of Mars. A total of 39 DC motors by maxon motor are at work in Opportunity, and they continue to diligently carry out their tasks. The precision drives are used to drive the robotic arm, the rock abrasion tool, the camera operation, and the control mechanism for the six wheels that propel the 180 kilogram vehicle, 1,6 metres long and 1,5 meters high, across the surface of Mars.

The motors are largely standard products with a diameter of 20 to 25 mm and an efficiency of over 90%. Minor modifications were necessary to adapt the motors for the harsh environmental conditions. The temperature on Mars can fluctuate from -120 to 25°C. In addition, the motors had to withstand the special conditions during the voyage to Mars. And the atmosphere, which largely consists of carbon dioxide, is also a very special environment for the high-precision motors.

Originally, two rovers were active on Mars but since March 2010, NASA has been out of contact with Opportunity's twin, Spirit. A next generation rover is already on the way to resume where Spirit left off. Curiosity, a space lab launched by NASA in November, is scheduled to land on Mars in August 2012.

For more information contact Hans Burri, DNH Tradeserve, +27 (0)11 468 2722, hans.burri@dnhtrade.co.za, www.dnhtrade.co.za



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