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  • Satellite Evolution

General Dynamics mission systems’ technology heads to red planet on Mars 2020 mission

Carrying on our rich heritage of contributions to NASA missions, General Dynamics Mission Systems will provide significant equipment for the space agency's next voyage to Mars with the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday, July 30, the Mars 2020 mission will put Perseverance to use exploring the surface of the Red Planet, searching for potential signs of past life and collecting and storing rock and soil samples for a possible return to Earth on future NASA missions. In addition, the mission will test new technology to benefit the future robotic – and eventually human – exploration of Mars.

The car-sized Perseverance also will carry Ingenuity, a helicopter tasked with testing the first powered, controlled flight on Mars. In addition, the rover will carry two microphones to potentially capture and transmit sounds from the Red Planet for the first time. Landing is scheduled for Feb. 18, 2021, in the Jezero Crater, with the mission duration planned for at least one Mars year (or 687 days on Earth).

Our Mission-Critical Contributions This mission will build upon the knowledge and experience gathered during 45 years of Mars

small deep space transponder

voyages that General Dynamics Mission Systems has been a part of, starting with our Tracking, Telemetry & Control transponder serving as part of the communication link for the two Viking missions in 1975 and continuing on all U.S. Mars missions to date, including orbiters and landers.

For Mars 2020, General Dynamics Mission Systems' contribution includes two Small Deep Space Transponders (SDSTs). The SDST has been in use for about 20 years, with more than a million hours in space across Mars and other space missions. Built in our Hayden facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, the SDST is considered the standard radio for deep space missions and is about the size of half a shoebox.

The SDST provides a crucial communications link directly between the rover and Earth. Our transponder is used to send the stored rover data via the Deep Space Network at high data rates, relaying all data and instructions on how to drive the rover and data from the rover's instruments to NASA. On average, it takes between three and 22 minutes for a message to travel from Mars to Earth, depending on the orbit of the planets.

The rover also carries our X-band solid-state power amplifier. This highly reliable power amplifier, synchronous rectifier and power converter unit has supported all previous rover missions to the Red Planet and several other deep space destinations.

X band solid state power amplifier SSPA

"General Dynamics Mission Systems' technology has provided a crucial communication link on every Mars rover and lander, and we're proud to continue this remarkable legacy with NASA as we embark on this latest mission of discovery to the Red Planet," says Manny Mora, vice president and general manager, Space and Intelligence Systems.

"It's all about trusted performance," adds Ann Rusher, vice president, Trusted Space Solutions. "Our team has been enabling critical communications between Earth and space with high-reliability space products since the mid-1950s, and with every successful mission, we solidify our reputation in the Space community.”

As we prepare for the successful landing of Perseverance on Mars early next year, we also look forward to future missions of discovery, including Psyche, Lucy and Artemis.

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