Lockheed Martin and NASA completed the final static test for a heat shield intended to protect the Mars 2020 rover from extreme thermal conditions on its mission toward the red planet.
The hardware is part of a 15-foot aeroshell that Lockheed is developing to support the rover from the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the company said Thursday.
During the assessment, a group of engineers used vacuum pumps to mimic 140K pounds of pressure or 120 percent of flight load that the heat shield will have to handle upon entry into Martian atmosphere.
The team also collaborated with NASA's Langley Research Center to deploy a Photogrammetry or Digital Image Correlation tool that monitors the shield's structural response in real time and generates a 3D map of surface strains and dispalcements.
"Tests like this structural test are absolutely essential to ensuring mission success in the long-run,“ noted Neil Tice, Lockheed's Mars 2020 Aeroshell program manager.
The company plans to install a heat and friction protection system called Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator onto the shield before its integration onto the backshell later this year.