This summer, Northrop Grumman is playing an important role in a historic phase of Mars exploration. Northrop Grumman’s LN-200S inertial measurement unit (IMU) will provide extended life inertial navigation for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) Perseverance Mars Rover, a mission that will seek signs of ancient life on the Red Planet.
The design life of the Perseverance Rover mission is about 1,071 Earth days (1.5 Mars year); however, NASA JPL required Northrop Grumman’s technology to be rigorously tested to double that time. This is a performance threshold the company felt confident it could meet after the success of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which launched in 2003 and featured the LN-200S. Both missions had a 90 Earth day design life, but the Opportunity rover ended up stretching to almost 15 Earth years (8 Mars years).
The LN-200S — part of the LN-200 product line of fiber-optic gyroscope (FOG) IMUs — will provide attitude and acceleration information throughout the Perseverance Mars Rover surface mission. It will be mounted deep inside the Rover as the vehicle traverses the planet’s surface and drills to collect core samples. The low cost, small size, weight and power (SWAP) LN-200S features three FOG gyroscopes and three silicon Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometers in a hermetically sealed package ideal for space applications, including asteroid and planetary probes.
“Northrop Grumman’s LN-200S has significant space heritage, offering proven capability and reliability in the demanding space flight environment on board many spacecraft in LEO, GEO and has traveled to a variety of heavenly bodies including Earth’s moon, Mars and asteroids,” said Brandon White, VP, navigation and positioning systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our IMU will play an essential part in the Perseverance Rover’s navigation as NASA pursues its long-term scientific mission.”