Lockheed Martin has received a contract from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design and build a protective capsule for the Mars Sample Retrieval lander.
The company said Tuesday it will develop an aeroshell that will protect the lander from extreme heat during its journey in deep space, landing sequence and descent to Mars to facilitate collection of soil samples taken by the Perseverance Rover, which reached the planet in February.
The lander will carry an ascent vehicle that will launch the retrieved soil samples into Martian orbit to rendezvous with an orbiter of the European Space Agency for their return trip to Earth by early 2030s.
Lockheed said the aeroshell is composed of a disc-like heat shield and a cone-shaped backshell protecting the spacecraft. The heat shield is made of Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, a thermal protective material designed at the agency’s Ames Research Center. The backshell is protected by SLA-561v, a lightweight ablator made of cork and silicone.
The company has developed aeroshells for NASA in support of 10 Mars missions, including Perseverance.