LOCKHEED MARTIN AWARDED CONTRACT TO DESIGN THE MARS SCIENCE LAB
Mission To Sustain Legacy of Company's Sophisticated Aeroshell
Denver, Colo., March 29, 2006 -- Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has been
awarded a preliminary design and concept study start-up contract by the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) aeroshell system.
Lockheed Martin and NASA will soon enter negotiations to finalize the
value of the contract.
Scheduled for launch in the fall of 2009, the Mars Science Laboratory
rover will support the Mars Exploration Program's strategy of "follow
the water" and will have the science goals of determining whether the
planet was ever habitable, characterizing the climate and geology of
Mars, and preparing for human exploration.
Lockheed Martin will design and build the aeroshell system, which
includes the composite load carrying structure and the thermal
protection system (TPS). The aeroshell is a blunt-nosed cone that will
encapsulate and protect the MSL rover from the intense heat and
that will be generated as the system descends through the Martian
"Lockheed Martin's successful heritage with aeroshells and thermal
protection systems spans more than three decades, starting with the
Viking missions in the 1970s, and continuing with the Pathfinder,
Genesis, Stardust and Mars Exploration Rovers missions," said Jim
Crocker, Lockheed Martin Space Systems vice president of Civil Space.
"Mars Science Lab will continue to build on the great science yielded
the Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Phoenix Lander."
The MSL heatshield will be the largest ever built at about 4.5 meters
(15 feet) in diameter. For comparison, the heatshields of the Mars
Exploration Rovers measured 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) and Apollo capsule
heatshields measured 3.9 meters (12.8 feet).
Lockheed Martin is also drawing upon this expertise in its bid for
NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle that will utilize a capsule design 5
meters (16.5 feet) in diameter.
The MSL heatshield will be made of a composite structure covered with a
thermal protection system composed of the cork silicone super
lightweight ablator (SLA) 561v. The backshell will be covered with a
similar SLA 561s. The backshell structure provides the attachment
to the rover landing system and parachute system that is deployed after
the capsule slows in the Martian atmosphere.
The aeroshell provides protection to the MSL rover through the
seven-month cruise to Mars and the fiery entry through the Martian
atmosphere. It will also support the parachute and a "sky crane", a
structure which will lower the rover to a "soft landing" on the surface
of Mars. The MSL rover will be approximately five times heavier than
Mars Exploration Rovers.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company is one of the major operating
units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space Systems designs, develops,
tests, manufactures and operates a variety of advanced technology
systems for military, civil and commercial customers. Chief products
include a full range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift
capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications
for commercial and government customers, advanced space observatories
and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles and missile
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 135,000
people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design,
development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced
technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported
sales of $37.2 billion.
Gary Napier, Lockheed Martin Space Systems
(303) 971-4012; [email protected]
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