Sandia contributes to the Mars 2020 mission

March 17, 2021 4:18 pm Published by

A team of Sandia scientists and engi­neers, led by Daniel Clayton, worked tirelessly since 2016 to assess the launch risks and ensure the safe launch of the Mars 2020 rover Perseverance last July.

Using Sandia’s state-of-the-art super­computers, they assessed the various risks posed by the rover’s radioiso­tope thermoelectric generator in the unlikely event of a catastrophic accident during the launch of the rocket carrying Perseverance. The radioisotope thermo­electric generator powers Perseverance’s vital scientific instruments throughout the frigid Mars nights and is built with a rugged, multilayer containment system to minimize the risk of releasing radioac­tive material.

The safety assessment team ran mech­anistic-based computer models of vari­ous potential launch accidents, validated with experimental data from smaller-scale tests and previous launch accidents. These smaller-scale tests included burn­ing solid rocket fuel at Sandia’s Thermal Test Complex and impact tests con­ducted at Sandia’s Rocket Sled Track and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Read the Lab News story or learn more about Sandia’s work providing space launch safety analyses for the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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