The Power Technology Behind NASA’s Mars Rover PerseveranceAugust 14, 2020 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.
The Rover’s power sources, essentially its lifeline, will heavily rely on Infineon and KULR Technology.
NASA’s Mars Rover, Perseverance is cruising towards the red planet to search for signs of life. The Rover’s power sources, essentially its lifeline, will heavily rely on Infineon and KULR Technology. Without a reliable power source, the rover cannot move, use its’ science instruments, or communicate with Earth.
The Mars Perseverance Rover will land on Mars approximately during February 2021. Image used courtesy of NASA JPL-Cal tech.
On this recent mission to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance Rover will investigate an astrobiological relevant ancient environment and surface geological processes to help prove the possibility of past life on Mars.
All power electronics for space applications must be able to withstand the extremes of radiation, shock, vibration, and temperature.
Seven scientific instruments will be used to search for past life on Mars. Image used courtesy of NASA.
The following is a list of the scientific instruments that will be utilized throughout the 2020 Mars Expedition:
- Mastcam-Z, a mast-mounted HD imaging camera system with panoramic, stereoscopic, and zoom capabilities.
- SuperCam, featuring a camera, laser, and spectrometers searching for organic compounds potentially related to past life on Mars.
- Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), looking for signs of past Martian microbial life.
- 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.
- Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), designed to produce oxygen from the planet’s atmospheric carbon dioxide.
- The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), makes weather measurements including wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity, and also measures the amount and size of dust particles in the Martian atmosphere.
- RIMFAX, the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment, uses radar waves to probe the ground under the rover.
In order for NASA scientists to maximize the capabilities of the rover's instruments, the power system must be highly reliable, fit for harsh environment exposure, and provide an extended system lifetime.
IR HiRel, an Infineon Technologies AG company, has supplied thousands of mission-critical radiation-hardened components for NASA. The Mars 2020 mission marks the company’s fifth time with power electronics aboard a Mars rover, starting with Sojourner in 1997, Opportunity and Spirit in 2004, and Curiosity in 2012.
Infineon and IR HiRel offer a unique portfolio high-reliability, rad hard power conversion, and RF solutions for space and other rugged environments. Image used courtesy of Infineon Technology.
Several rover subsystems, such as the flight computer, motor control, radar, and mission instrument suite, integrate IR HiRel space-grade MOSFETs, ICs, and other power control products that ensure reliable operation in the harsh space environment.
Eric Toulouse, Vice-President and General Manager of IR HiRel stated, “IR HiRel has been privileged to supply high-reliability power conversion solutions in space programs over the decades.”
Perseverance carries a groundbreaking scientific instrument suite designed to test new technology and conduct advanced research in the harsh Martian environment. Five of these critical instruments contain IR HiRel semiconductors; Mastercam-Z, MOXIE, PIXL, Supercam, and SHERLOC.
KULR Technology Group is taking its space-proven solutions for electronics and lithium-ion batteries to serve the world of electric transportation, energy storage, battery safety, 5G infrastructure, cloud computing, and aerospace and defense applications. manufactures and licenses next-generation carbon fiber thermal management technologies for batteries and electronic systems. Integrated on the Mars rover will be KULR’s innovative carbon fiber thermal management solutions.
Carbon fiber infused heat sink utilizing PCM to absorb or provide heat. Image used courtesy of KULR Technology.
In 2017, KULR designed a system to keep the components from freezing during NASA’s NICER mission which explored deep space neutron stars. For the 2020 mission, KULR will provide crucial thermal management for vital components in the Rover as part of the SHERLOC instrument.
The KULR design in the “SHERLOC” project is a unique and highly effective phase-change system that incorporates custom-designed phase change heat sinks designed to absorb and mitigate rapid temperature changes, keeping sensitive components such as lasers and sensors within desired temperature ranges to avoid signal distortion or other complications.
A pair of KULR heat sinks were designed to accept 5400 Joules of heat for over one-hour operating time while keeping the temperature of the spectrometer detector within design limits.
Life on Mars
Searching for past microbial life itself by testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, improving landing techniques, and identifying other resources environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
KULR’s heat sinks are expected to last at least one Mars year, about 687 days on Earth, while Infineon guarantee’s their IR HiRel MOSFETS will last 15 years in space conditions. However, this isn’t a challenge to see which device would last longer.
All the components of the Perseverance are like living organs, each critical in their own way and all needed to support one another to have a long successful journey on Mars.