Maxon drives are on-board Perseverance rover for Mars mission

NASA will send its fifth rover to Mars this month. It will collect soil samples for analysis back on Earth. There will also be a helicopter onboard. The rover will be equipped with Maxon’s precision DC and brushless DC (BLDC) motors, in the robotic arm which will move the soil samples from station to station inside the Perserverance rover. Maxon motors will also be used for sealing and depositing the sample containers.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is carrying out the mission, and has asked Maxon to produce 10 drives for the rover based on standard products. This mission will be the first time that NASA is using brushless DC motors, including nine EC 32 flat and one EC 20 flat in combination with a GP 22 UP planetary gearhead.

Working closely with JPL specialists, Maxon engineers developed the drives and tested them thoroughly to achieve the highest standards of quality.

The Perseverance rover is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021. A drone helicopter, called Ingenuity, will be attached to its underside. It weighs 1.8kg and is solar powered. It will perform several short flights and take aerial images. There are six brushed DCX motors with a diameter of 10mm controlling the tilt of the rotor blades and the direction of flight. The drives are very light, dynamic and energy-efficient. These properties are crucial, because every gram counts on the Mars helicopter. Flying on Mars is not easy. The atmosphere is extremely thin, roughly comparable to the conditions on Earth at an altitude of 30km. The drone helicopter has flown in a simulated test environment in the JPL laboratory. Whether it will lift off on Mars remains to be seen, conceded Maxon, and is dependent on a successful rocket launch.

Space missions place the highest demands on drive systems. This includes vibrations during the rocket launch, vacuum during the journey, impacts on landing, and the harsh conditions on the surface of Mars, where temperatures fluctuate between -125 and +20 degrees C and dust penetrates everywhere.

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