NASA tests descent-stage separation for Mars 2020 rover

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have completed a successful separation test for the Mars 2020 rover, said the latest release from JPL.

A crane lifted the rocket-powered descent stage away from the rover on September 28.

“Firing the pyrotechnic devices that held the rover and descent stage together and then doing the post-test inspection of the two vehicles was an all-day affair,” said Ryan van Schilifgaarde, a support engineer for Mars 2020 assembly at JPL.

“With this test behind us, the rover and descent stage go their separate ways for a while. Next time they are attached will be at the Cape next spring during final assembly,” he said.

Both the rover and descent stage will ship to Cape Canaveral, Florida, this winter. Before that, there will be a battery of tests for the Mars 2020 rover, including an evaluation of its computers and mechanical systems in Mars-like conditions.

Called the Surface Thermal Test, it involves subjecting the car-size Mars vehicle to atmospheric pressures and temperatures similar to those it will encounter on the Red Planet.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for NASA. The rover is scheduled to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

When the rover lands at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, it will be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence.

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