DC motors on their way to Mars

maxon motor Australia Pty Ltd

Thursday, 13 July, 2017


maxon motor has supplied DC motor and gearhead combinations for the Mars 2020 rover, which is currently being built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of a planned mission to the Red Planet in 2020.

From the outside, the Mars 2020 rover looks similar to its precursor, Curiosity, which is still operating on Mars. The latest rover will however have several new instruments on board to deliver new data. One key objective will be to search Mars for biosignatures; another will be to test whether it’s possible to generate oxygen from the atmosphere for possible future human visits.

One of the rover’s most significant new innovations is the ability to take rock samples in several locations and prepare them for return to Earth. The plan is to collect dozens of soil samples, seal them and leave them on Mars for future pick-up.

Nine brushless (flat) pancake DC motors and gearhead combinations from maxon’s standard range will be used in the rover’s sample handling aim, which moves the containers from station to station within the sampling system. Additional DC motors will sit inside the rover and assist with obtaining the samples and sealing the containers.

The brushless DC motors and gearheads have been heavily customised to survive the powerful entry, descent and landing sequence as well as the harsh daily conditions on Mars, with sandstorms and temperatures ranging from -130 to +70°C.

Image caption: A computer-designed drawing of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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