Years of Perseverance: SNC Contributes to Mars 2020 Rover
July 28, 2020
NASA is soon expected to launch the Perseverance rover on its Mars 2020 mission. While the rover is currently being prepped for launch, its build wasn’t an overnight event. It took hundreds of engineers years to get the rover to where it is today.
The mission itself was first announced in 2012. In the years following, NASA had to acquire mechanisms and components in order to build their rover.
SNC employees started developing and building eight mechanisms for the mission in February of 2015.
We chatted with SNC mechanical engineer, Dave, about the design challenge and a special trip he and five teammates were invited to take in 2018.
“Perseverance included a number of design challenges,” said Dave. “Some mechanisms we built are being used in multiple applications throughout the rover. Others were designed to be used in a single, highly specialized application. Striking a balance between maintaining similarity between eight different designs and deviating to meet specific application requirements was a challenge.”
Dave says the SNC team and its counterparts at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) partnered well together, solving unexpected problems despite being three time zones a part!
That collaboration become even more rewarding when Dave and five other SNC employees were invited to see how the mechanisms they built were being utilized. They were invited to NASA’s JPL in Pasadena, California in November of 2018.
Dave tells us the group spent part of the day meeting to discuss the status of the Mars 2020 program, but the real treat was getting the opportunity to tour the labs using the SNC-built hardware that had already been delivered.
The team also got the chance to see the actual Perseverance rover in assembly in a giant JPL clean room. In another building, they saw the flight helicopter in production.
“Seeing our designs meet their performance and life test requirements at our facility was very rewarding after years of design, assembly and collaboration with JPL. But, having the opportunity to visit JPL and see our mechanisms working well, integrated into mechanisms in in various test labs around their campus, and see the rover in person, was icing on the cake,” said Dave.
Finally, the team made a stop at the ‘Mars Yard’, which is where the earth-bound version of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover lives. It’s what engineers use for troubleshooting or testing any issues Curiosity actually sees while on Mars.