When the Mars Science Laboratory embarks on its voyage to Mars on Nov. 25, Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne products will be onboard to make the mission possible. Curiosity, about the size of a Mini Cooper and four times heavier than current Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, will be powered by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG). Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE: UTX).
The MMRTG is designed to operate in a range of different mission environments, from the vacuum of deep space to extreme planetary surface environments. Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne developed the MMRTG in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Our engineering team did an exceptional job developing a system that can operate in the most extreme environment,” said Larry Trager, general manager, Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne. “The MMRTG has no moving parts, so it is very robust.”
Curiosity is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Nov. 25. The rocket is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 booster engine, and the Centaur upper stage is powered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine.
The mobile laboratory is planned to arrive at the Gale Crater in August 2012, where it will make its way toward a central mountain to investigate whether Mars is, or ever has been, hospitable to microbial life. Its main mission is slated to last 23 months, or one Martian year.
“The MMRTG team, including Teledyne Energy Systems, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, worked closely to ensure that the MMRTG is well prepared for this mission,” said Bill Otting, MMRTG program manager, Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne. “With the MMRTG power system, the Curiosity rover will have excellent mobility and scientific capability.”