Tuesday, October 28, 2014
WESTERLY, RI — As NASA planned ever more ambitious robotic missions to Mars and beyond, it needed to develop technology to decelerate increasingly larger payloads traveling at supersonic speeds in thin atmospheres to new levels of performance.
Current NASA technology dates to the Mars Viking missions of the 1970s. New technology now under development would allow larger, heavier objects to slow from supersonic entry speeds to the subsonic ground-approach speeds necessary for a safe surface landing on Mars. Among the technologies under consideration is a specially designed quick disconnect connector from AMETEK SCP, a world leader in connector solutions for military and commercial applications.
NASA first approached AMETEK in early 2013 to develop an interconnect solution for its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator flight demonstration test vehicle. NASA required a connector with both electrical and fiber optic capabilities that also was designed for quick and reliable disconnection to permit the reliable launch of the test vehicle.
NASA turned to AMETEK SCP to handle the engineering challenge because of its unique connector engineering capabilities. The connector that AMETEK designed allows the system to transfer data, maintain communications to critical subsystems, and access the health and status of on-board high-definition and high-resolution video systems until the test vehicle is deployed, at which point the connector quickly and reliably disconnects.
AMETEK’s novel connector solution was successfully test aboard a high-altitude scientific balloon that carried the test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet. At that altitude, the vehicle was released and a solid rocket engine carried the vehicle to a height of 180,000 feet.
One of NASA’s goals is to reduce risks to potential future missions by flight testing designs that meet the higher mass payload needs of future Mars missions with full-scale demonstrations tests in the Earth’s stratosphere.
AMETEK SCP is a leader in custom electrical and optical connectors. It provides electrical interconnect solutions for a wide range of extreme environments, including undersea, oil field, nuclear and aerospace. Its connectors, cable assemblies and hull penetrators are widely found on submarine fleets of the world’s navies, including the United States and Great Britain, which have come to rely on SCP’s extensive expertise in electrical connector and data transmission technologies.
AMETEK SCP is a unit of AMETEK, Inc., a leading global manufacturer of electronic instruments and electromechanical devices with annualized sales of $4.2 billion. For additional information, contact AMETEK SCP, 52 Airport Road, Westerly, RI, 02891. Telephone: 401-596-6658. Fax: 401-596-8597.