German-based motion control goes to Mars with Curiosity

Aug. 28, 2012
German-based motion control goes to Mars with Curiosity

The lab carried by Curiosity, NASA’s currently active Martian rover, carries motion-control hardware from two German-based companies, Physik Instrumente and miCos. (Coincidently, after their independent Curiosity projects, miCos was become a PI company.)
Pi supplied the multi-layer piezo actuators used in the chemistry and mineralogy instrument. This device uses x-ray diffraction of soil samples to determine if water was present in their formation. The actuators put the samples through precise shaking routines that separate the soil into same-sized powders and get them ready for x-ray analysis. To qualify for the Curiosity program, the actuators had to pass 100 billion cycles of life testing. The device passed, and on average, the test actuators retained 96% of their capabilities through to the end of the test.
miCos (now PI miCos), provided an MT-40 motorized positioning stage that goes into a chemistry and camera instrument. The so-called ChemCam vaporized rock specimens up to 29 feet from Curiosity with a laser. The ChemCam then uses it spectrometer to examine the vapor and determine what the rock was made of. The MT-40 stepper motor precisely repositions the device’s optics to focus on the vapor. Prior to launch, ever component of the positioner had to be checked and beefed up so that they could handle the shock and vibrations of both initial launch and Mars landing.

Physik Instrumente,
PI miCos,

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