Lockheed Martin to design Mars Science Lab aeroshell

DENVER, 4 April 2006. Lockheed Martin has been awarded a preliminary design and concept study start-up contract by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) aeroshell system. Lockheed Martin and NASA will soon enter negotiations to finalize the value of the contract.

DENVER, 4 April 2006. Lockheed Martin has been awarded a preliminary design and concept study start-up contract by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) aeroshell system. Lockheed Martin and NASA will soon enter negotiations to finalize the value of the contract.

Scheduled for launch in the fall of 2009, the Mars Science Laboratory rover will support the Mars Exploration Program's strategy and have the science goals of determining whether the planet was ever habitable, characterizing the climate and geology of Mars, and preparing for human exploration.

Lockheed Martin will design and build the aeroshell system, which includes the composite load carrying structure and the thermal protection system (TPS). The aeroshell is a blunt-nosed cone that will encapsulate and protect the MSL rover from the intense heat and friction that will be generated as the system descends through the Martian atmosphere.

The MSL heatshield will be the largest ever built, measuring roughly 15 feet in diameter.

The aeroshell provides protection to the MSL rover through the seven-month cruise to Mars and the fiery entry through the Martian atmosphere. It will also support the parachute and a "sky crane," a structure which will lower the rover to a soft landing on the surface of Mars. The MSL rover will be approximately five times heavier than the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Lockheed Martin also is bidding for NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle that will utilize a capsule design 16.5 feet in diameter.

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