Lockheed Martin has delivered an aeroshell that will cover and protect the Mars 2020 rover as the spacecraft descends to Mars.
The company said Friday it produced the aeroshell designed to shield the rover from heat upon atmospheric entry into the red planet. The shell measures almost 15 feet in diameter.
A Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator system provides the aeroshell with thermal protection against Mars’ trajectory profile that may produce heat up to 3.8K degrees Fahrenheit.
“Even though we have the experience of building the nearly identical aeroshell for the Curiosity Rover, the almost 15-foot diameter composite structure was just as big a challenge to build and test 10 years later,” said Neil Tice, Mars 2020 aeroshell program manager at Lockheed Martin Space.
NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory houses tests for the Mars 2020 rover that is scheduled to land on the red planet in February 2021. Kennedy Space Center now holds the aeroshell and will serve as Mars 2020’s launch site in July.