...the who's who,
and the what's what 
of the space industry

Space Careers

news Space News

Search News Archive

Title

Article text

Keyword

  • Home
  • News
  • AFRL technology traveling to Mars

AFRL technology traveling to Mars

Written by  Monday, 21 September 2020 07:24
Write a comment
Kirtland AFB NM (SPX) Sep 18, 2020
The Red Planet, Mars, will soon be receiving more visitors when NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover accompanied by its flight companion, a 4-pound Mars Helicopter named Ingenuity, touches down in February 2021. The Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate has three important technologies being using on Perseverance and Ingenuity, launched together on an Atlas V roc

The Red Planet, Mars, will soon be receiving more visitors when NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover accompanied by its flight companion, a 4-pound Mars Helicopter named Ingenuity, touches down in February 2021.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate has three important technologies being using on Perseverance and Ingenuity, launched together on an Atlas V rocket on Jul. 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Ingenuity is the first helicopter to attempt controlled flight on another planet and will assess the viability of flight in the harsh Martian environment of extreme heat and cold. Its survivability and performance will shape the of future autonomous flight experiments on the Red Planet. The Perseverance rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.

For the past several decades, AFRL has been developing technologies that make space flight possible and spacecraft more resilient against the harsh environment of space.

A technology with the formal name of Inverted Metamorphic Multifunction 4J (IMM4J) solar cells will be used to convert solar energy into electrical power for the helicopter Ingenuity. This technology was developed with AFRL funding in partnership with SolAero, and subsequently tailored for use in the Martian environment. SolAero is an Albuquerque, New Mexico based company that specializes in IMM solar cell research.

"The IMM solar cell technology results in higher performance power systems that enable United States Space Force spacecraft to provide improved communication and awareness for air, ground, and space domains," said Dr. Paul Hausgen, an AFRL senior engineer and Deputy Chief for the Spacecraft Component Technology Branch.

The Space Vehicles Directorate has been working on IMM solar cell technology for over 15 years at a cost of over $15 million.

"Another version of the IMM space solar cell AFRL has developed through contract with SolAero, is called IMM," Hausgen said. "It is currently undergoing final testing to ensure space worthiness, called "qualification," and will soon be fielded on future DoD spacecraft."

"IMM4J, the IMM solar cell on Ingenuity, was originally designed for high efficiency at the beginning of an earth-orbiting space mission," he said. "IMM is optimized for higher power at the end of the mission. Spacecraft power systems are generally designed for end-of- mission power."

The majority of operational DoD spacecraft are powered by solar cell technology that the Space Vehicles Directorate, and her predecessor organizations along with various industry partners, have developed Hausgen explained.

Another important AFRL innovation that supported the deployment of the Ingenuity helicopter is a software suite called Veritrek that spun out of AFRL research and funding that began in 2009.

"The Veritrek software helps in the understanding of a spacecraft's thermal design trade space," said Brent Taft, AFRL senior engineer and renowned expert in spacecraft thermal technology. "NASA is using Veritrek to reduce design and analysis time to support the Mars 2020 helicopter surface operations, which are limited by a tight energy budget that is strongly dependent on thermal survival energy use, and time critical due to limited communications windows."

Taft explained that Veritrek uses reduced order models to provide designers with a tool to evaluate thermal design sensitivities, identify risk, and propose solutions quickly. "The result is significant time and cost savings. In the case of Ingenuity, 14 weeks of design and analysis time were saved using the Veritrek software," he said.

LoadPath LLC, an Albuquerque company, developed and marketed the Veritrek software suite.

All spacecraft need computer brains and electronics to maneuver through space.

"Over the last 25 years, the AFRL Space Electronics Technology (SET) program has funded the technology behind the BAE RAD750 computer processing unit (CPU) - the brains - and memory, the Xilinx Virtex5QV reprogrammable computer, and the Honeywell GVSC flight computer being used on the Mars Perseverance rover," said Ken Bole, AFRL senior engineer and SET program manager.

"The CPU and memory control most of the systems on-board the spacecraft while on the journey to Mars with little human intervention," he said. "We have to use computers we can trust since signals take can take between 3 and 22 minutes to get from Earth to the spacecraft. Similarly, the GVSC flight computer controls the spacecraft flight for most of the 7-month journey with only occasional human intervention."

At a cost of well over $120 million in R and D and a quarter of a century in the making, Bole points out the use of these technologies in the Perseverance rover demonstrates the Department of the Air Force can rely on these electronics for deployment in weapons systems that experience some of the most strenuous environmental conditions.

"These include extremes in heat such as minus 55 degrees Celsius, [minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit] to plus 125 Celsius, [257 degrees Fahrenheit] and the damaging effects of radiation," he said. "NASA is also using these electronics because they are reliable, affordable, and commercially available."

"AFRL's Space Electronics program has developed or sponsored development of electronics that are on over 95 percent of US-built spacecraft." Bole said. "The RAD750 CPU is still the most widely used spaceflight computer in the US, being used on military, civil, and commercial spacecraft."


Related Links
Air Force Research Laboratory
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Tweet

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only



MARSDAILY
China's Mars probe travels 137 mln km
Beijing (XNA) Sep 14, 2020
China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 has traveled 137 million km, said sources with the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration. As of 9 a.m. Friday, the probe was in stable condition at a distance of more than 15.3 million km away from Earth, according to a center statement. The probe captured a photo of Earth and the moon in late July, and completed its first mid-course orbital correction in early August. China launched the Mars probe on July 23, ... read more


Read more from original source...

You must login to post a comment.
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

* Denotes Required Field
Personal information
Message

Interested in Space?

Hit the buttons below to follow us...