Encoder technology from maxon motor on board Curiosity
The landing of the Mars rover Curiosity took seven exciting minutes. Now it will be looking for signs of life on the Red Planet. And maxon encoder technology will play a part in the successful excursion of the rover.
The new Mars rover Curiosity ended its six month long journey to Mars with a successful landing on 6th August 2012. As everything went according to plan, the control center at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California erupted in cheers. "It was a wonderful landing, everything looked extremely good," said Adam Steltzner, NASA engineer and lead scientist of the JPL landing team, at a press conference.
This is the start of a new, exciting excursion on the Red Planet. In contrast to the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, Curiosity can travel further distances on its six wheels and run longer without solar energy as a radionuclide battery gives energy for years. The plan is for the rover to explore the immense Gale Crater on Mars for signs of life, for two years. It will do this with impressive equipment on board - it is hoped that a gas chromatograph will uncover organic compounds; a spectrometer will analyse the composition of rocks which will be collected by the two-metre-long robot arm, and a neutron source will look for hydrogen in the ground.
“From Mars via the International Space Station to the moon“
On its 'Mission to Mars', Curiosity also has maxon products on board. The MR Encoder technology is built in to the electromechanic joints of the rover. The magnetic sensors are mounted on the drive shafts and are responsible for controlling the motors. Apart from that, maxon development services for the drive systems have also played a part in the 900 kilogram rover being able to carry out its Mars Mission successfully.
Curiosity's little brother, Opportunity, is still on its journey on Mars; for the past eight years the rover has been exploring Mars with the help of maxon motors. A further success for maxon motor is the SpaceX-Mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Amongst other things, brushless EC motors have been used to move the two solar panels, which always have to be facing the sun in order to supply the Dragon Capsule with power.
More flights to the ISS are already planned; the next in September 2012. In 2015, a further rover will be sent to explore Mars, for the Exomars Mission. The moon is also in sight - at least for the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), when an exploration rover will be sent to the moon. Numerous research satellites nearer to Earth will also be fitted with maxon drives. The next start of such a satellite its the ESA Sentinel 3, which will fly into space in 2013. Here, maxon motors will be used, for example, in a possible emergency, to control and secure the fuel valves.