SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 17, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, recently received a contract from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to supply the thrusters that would help land the next rover on Mars after it is launched in 2020.
Under a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy, Aerojet Rocketdyne also would supply the power source that would enable the rover to move around and conduct experiments on the red planet. The next rover is expected to carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments in order to conduct geological assessments of the rover's landing site and also to determine potential habitability while searching for signs of ancient Martian life.
"Aerojet Rocketdyne has provided propulsion for every Mars mission since Viking 1 and Viking 2, and we are proud to continue that legacy with a mission designed to drive innovation and technologies that may enable humans to live on our planetary neighbor one day," said Warren Yasuhara, vice president of Space Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne.
"With no moving parts, our nuclear power source is extremely robust and should give the 2020 rover the same excellent mobility and scientific capability that Curiosity is presently experiencing in the harsh environment of Mars," said Larry Trager, director of Advanced Power Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "We understand the importance of a reliable, long-lasting power source for future, increasingly sophisticated Mars missions."
NASA plans to base the 2020 mission on the design of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed in August 2012, and is currently operating on Mars. Scientists would use the new Mars 2020 rover to identify and select rock and soil samples for collection and potential return to Earth on a future mission. It will be upgraded to include seven new instruments. According to NASA, the Mars 2020 rover will help advance knowledge of how future human explorers could use the natural resources available on the red planet and help engineers learn how to use those resources to produce oxygen for human respiration or as an oxidizer for rocket fuel.
For the 2020 mission, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide eight MR-80B 700-7 lbf thrusters and eight MR-107U 68 lbf thrusters, which would assist with the entry, descent and landing of the rover on Mars. These same thrusters were used to help successfully land Curiosity in 2012. The baseline electrical power system for the rover features a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), which was designed and developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne with Teledyne Energy Systems, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. The MMRTG, which is powering Curiosity, is designed to operate in a range of harsh environments, from the vacuum of deep space to extreme planetary surface atmospheres. It continuously provides both heat and electrical power to the rover to allow day and night operations. The heat is used to provide thermal stability for Curiosity's onboard electronics and mechanical systems.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems, tactical systems and armaments areas, in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a diversified company that provides innovative solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense, and real estate markets. Additional information about Aerojet Rocketdyne and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies' websites at www.Rocket.com and www.GenCorp.com.