NASA Puts Mars 2020 Rover to the Test | Eurasia Diary -

16 September, Monday

NASA Puts Mars 2020 Rover to the Test

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NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft has been put through its paces this week, completing rigorous tests that simulate the extreme conditions of outer space, Geek reported.

*Cue training montage set to “Eye of the Tiger”*

Acoustic and thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing is the agency’s “best Earthly approximation” for what the rover will endure during launch; it introduces the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space that could cause components to malfunction or fail.

And it sounds like a lot of fun.

“First we blast [the rover] with sound to make sure nothing vibrates loose,” David Gruel, Mars 2020 assembly, test, and launch operations manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

“Then, after a thorough examination, we ‘put it in space’ by placing the spacecraft in this huge vacuum chamber,” he continued. “We pump out the atmosphere, then chill parts and cook others while testing the performance of the entire spacecraft.”

NASA began the process in April, when a stand-in rover (the real capsule is undergoing final assembly) was bombarded by sound from nitrogen-pressurized speakers.

“We test the hardware components with a random noise spectrum in order to replicate a launch environment,” according to Andy Rose, manager of JPL’s Environmental Test Facilities. “We reach sound levels as high as 150 decibels, which would really rattle your fillings if you were inside the chamber at the time.”

Over the last month, the probe has endured two comprehensive stress tests.

“Everything looked great,” Gruel said. “Which is a good thing, because next time this spacecraft stack hits a vacuum, it will be on its way to Mars for real.”

The 2020 rover carries an entirely new suite of instruments, including a caching system to collect samples of Mars and the Lander Vision System (LVS) that will help guide the mission to a safe arrival.

LVS—which, during a recent test flight, collected and analyzed imagery in Death Valley, Calif.—is an integral part of the Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) guidance system, meant to steer the Mars 2020 rover away from hazardous areas during its final descent to the Red Planet.

The first-of-its-kind mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020, and is expected to make a soft touchdown in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

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