On a mission to search for traces of ancient microbial life, Perseverance, the most advanced planetary rover in history, entered the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere at around 11,900 mph. Transmission confirming its arrival on February 18, 2021, was expected to take 11.5 minutes to reach Earth, 130 million miles away.
The robotic explorer will collect drill-core samples and perform experiments with implications limited only by one’s imagination, facing the challenges of deep space high energy radiation and extreme heat and cold cycling. Perseverance, a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1043 kilograms) and armed with hardened technology, will help pave the way for future human exploration of our solar system.
While Mars is a frigid, almost airless desert today, scientists believe microbes may have lived in the Jezero Crater during a wetter period 3.5 billion years ago. The six-wheeled robotic rover will search for chemical, mineral, and textural evidence of ancient microbial life preserved in the crater’s sediments. Perseverance will be the first mission to collect dozens of drill-core samples, seal them in tubes, and deposit them on the surface for future missions to collect and return to Earth for in-depth analysis by researchers and sophisticated instrumentation.
Powering the Mission
Electricity is the life-blood powering the robotic explorer’s instrumentation, communications, mobility, and scientific activities. Reliable power and battery longevity are critical to the 11-year rover mission. Perseverance runs on a high voltage battery bus for efficiency. However, the voltage output provided directly from the bus is too high for 99% of the Martian explorer’s electronic systems. Without an efficiently regulated intermediate voltage step-down, the rover would waste a significant amount of energy, and the battery would require more frequent recharging.
A Power Collaborator
NASA/JPL selected ADI as its technology provider to deliver a key power management solution. The high voltage, synchronous, current-mode controller acts as an interface to transform the high voltage supply from the central battery bus to lower voltages required to run all the rover’s components (ICs). The radiation-hardened controller offers the highest levels of conversion efficiency while wasting as little power as possible. Power loss generates heat, and excess heat is detrimental to component health. And in the thin Martian atmosphere, it’s even more challenging to get rid of any excess heat.
63 ADI components critical to the Mars mission lie aboard the Perseverance.
“The parts span the realm of RF/μW to op-amps, power management to data conversion, and everything in between,” Kristen Chong, Marketing Manager and Applications Engineer, ADI, said. “We continue to work with NASA/JPL on challenging new space programs.”
With a working relationship dating back to the early 1980s, Arrow Electronics and ADI has been pushing the limits of technology and developing critical components, custom programs, and hardened technology with NASA/JPL. Regardless of its function or mission, each component encounters the harshest conditions, including extreme G-forces, vibration, temperature fluctuation, and radiation.