WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – Northrop Grumman supplied the navigation and pointing aid for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which recently began a historic two-year exploration of Mars.
Northrop Grumman’s LN-200S is a lightweight, fiber-optic inertial measurement unit (IMU) that will help guide the Mars rover as it investigates the viability of microbial life on the planet – now or in the past.
The LN-200S is a critical navigational element that senses acceleration and angular motion, providing data outputs used by vehicle control systems for guidance. Additionally, the LN-200S helps position the rover’s antennae to relay photos and data to satellites.
“The reliability and outstanding performance-to-package size ratio of the LN-200 products make them ideally suited for mission-critical applications in a range of aerospace and defense applications,” said Gorik Hossepian, Northrop Grumman vice president of navigation and positioning systems. “This product has withstood challenging environmental conditions during numerous space missions, and this extends that legacy.”
NASA has a long tradition of utilizing Northrop Grumman’s LN-200 IMU product series on spacecraft, including the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. NASA had planned for those rovers to last only 90 days, but Spirit persevered for six years and Opportunity is still functioning.
The commercial off-the-shelf LN-200 IMU series is available in multiple versatile configurations to meet unique customer needs for a variety of products and applications, ranging from torpedoes to image stabilization. Northrop Grumman supplies different models of the IMU to NASA for various programs, including advanced research and development as well as the Sounding Rockets program at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The Curiosity Mars rover carries the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface. The rover is capable of traveling up to 200 meters (660 feet) per day and rolling over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high. Unlike earlier rovers, Curiosity is equipped to gather, process and distribute rock and soil samples to onboard test chambers.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.