SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 5, 2012 - Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, announced today that its monopropellant hydrazine thrusters helped guide NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) to a successful landing on the red planet at 10:32 p.m. PT on Aug. 5, 2012. The much-anticipated landing delivered the rover Curiosity to the Martian surface.
Aerojet engines assisted with entry, descent and landing. The company's thrusters also provided attitude control and trajectory correction maneuvers during the MSL's transit to Mars. MSL carried eight Aerojet MR-111C 1.0 lbf thrusters, eight Aerojet MR-107U 68 lbf thrusters and eight Aerojet MR-80B 800-lbf thrusters with a throttleable thrust range of >100:1. The 68 lbf and the 800 lbf thrusters supported the actual landing.
In June 2012, NASA reduced the MSL target landing area to about 12 miles long and four miles wide (20 kilometers by seven kilometers) on a site near the northern flank of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater on Mars. The landing timeline began with guided entry in the upper atmosphere of Mars and concluded with the sky crane drop-off of Curiosity and the remaining spacecraft fly-away.
This was the most complicated landing ever attempted on a planet. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E37Ss9Tm36c for a simulation of the landing.
"Aerojet joins NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in congratulating the MSL team on tonight's historic landing," said Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet vice president of Space and Launch Systems. "Aerojet thrusters brought Viking 1 and 2 and the Phoenix Mars Lander to safe arrivals on Mars and we were confident that our MSL thrusters would once again help deliver success."
The three different types of thrusters aboard the MSL were designed and manufactured at Aerojet's Redmond, Wash. facility under contract to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The 800 lbf throttling engines were tested at Aerojet's Sacramento facility.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. has trimmed the distance Curiosity will drive after landing by almost half, allowing the rover to reach the mountain months earlier. NASA determined it was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in the precision landing technology aboard the MSL spacecraft. Rock layers located in the mountain are the prime location for rover research.
To get engaged with MSL, visit www.getcurious.com. Aerojet is a proud sponsor of this campaign that encourages the public to 'Get Curious' and learn more about the landing of the Mars rover 'Curiosity,' the benefits of space exploration and the unique financial and educational opportunities that exploring Mars will bring to the United States and the rest of the world. Aerojet also will be posting mission updates on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Aerojet.
Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense, strategic, tactical missile and armaments areas in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company's excess real estate assets. Additional information about Aerojet and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies' websites at http://www.Aerojet.com and at www.GenCorp.com.