High strength fasteners for Mars exploration rover

| Transport

TR Fastenings has been commissioned to supply high strength blind rivets for the ground-penetrating radar system on NASA’s 2020 Mars Exploration Rover. This will be the first time in TR’s 43-year history that the company has provided components for a space mission.

TR Fastenings Norway received this commission from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), which won a bid with NASA to design and build the Mars Rover’s Radar Imager. The project has been managed by TR Norway, one of TR’s 27 operations worldwide, which is also providing dedicated guiding tools to assist with the assembly process.

The radar, known as RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Exploration), is one of seven scientific instruments on the Exploration Rover which should help establish whether it’s feasible to sustain human life on the Red Planet. The sophisticated radar imager consists of an electronics box mounted inside the Rover and an ultra-wideband slot antenna mounted on the rear of the vehicle.

The rivets help ensure the structural integrity of the radar’s antenna, which is constructed to aerospace standards from lightweight aluminium sheet metal and assembled from several complex shaped parts. These components will be exposed for years to the hostile conditions of a planet famous for its extreme dust storms and temperatures as low as minus 125 degrees centigrade. The currently operational Rover, Opportunity, landed on Mars in 2004 for a planned mission of 90 Martian days (92.4 Earth days) but is still in service.

The new Mars Exploration Rover will roam Mars’ rocky terrain searching for a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on the planet. RIMFAX’s ground penetrating radar will send radio frequency electromagnetic waves into the ground to a depth of up to 10 metres and then detect the reflected signal as a function of time to reveal the subsurface structure and composition. Ground penetrating radar has the capability to reveal subsurface terrains such as lava flows, buried channels, and polar ice cap stratigraphy.

Jan-Erik Storsve of TR Fastenings Norway commented: “It’s incredible to think of those fasteners being used in outer space! We are extremely proud to be involved in the next Mars mission and everyone at TR is looking forward to the launch with great excitement.”

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