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General Dynamics Mission Systems (GDMS) has a number of technology products on board the Mars 2020 mission, due to launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, later today.

The car-sized PERSEVERANCE Mars Rover will explore 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 Rover will also carry INGENUITY, a helicopter tasked with testing the first powered, controlled flight on Mars, and two microphones to capture and transmit sound from the planet for the first time. Landing is scheduled for 18 February 2021 and mission duration is expected to be at least one Mars year (687 days).

GDMS has played a role in Mars exploration for the last 45 years and the knowledge and experience gained during that time will be leveraged to the benefit of the Mars 2020 mission. The company’s Tracking, Telemetry & Control transponder served as part of both 1975 VIKING missions’ communications link and has continued that function on all US Mars missions to date. For Mars 2020, GDMS will supply two Small Deep Space Transponders (SDST). In use for the last 20 years and with more than a million hours in space on Mars and other missions, SDST – at about half the size of a shoebox – is considered to be the standard radio for deep space missions. It provides the crucial communications link between the Rover and Earth, using the Deep Space Network at high data rates to communicate instructions to and stored data from the Rover. Depending on relative orbits, messages take 3-22 mins to cover the distance.

PERSEVERANCE also carries GDMS’ X-band solid-state power amplifier, a highly reliable unit that includes a synchronous rectifier and power converter unit and has supported all previous Rover missions to the Red Planet and several other deep space destinations.

"It's all about trusted performance," commented Ann Rusher, VP, 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.”

Looking beyond MARS 2020, GDMS is working on future missions of discovery, including PSYCHE (a 2023 mission to a metal asteroid between Mars and Jupiter), LUCY (a 2021 mission to five Jupiter Trojans) and ARTEMIS – an acronym for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun – an ongoing two-spacecraft mission.

The Small Deep Space Transponder has become an established and reliable deep space communications link. (Photo: GDMS)

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