Digital Sun Sensors Provide Sun Angle Data, Plus Precise Positioning and Trajectory for Re-entry on Mars

30 July 2020, Marlborough, MA – Adcole Space is a strategic sun sensor solution provider for the Mars 2020 Mission, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center, FL on July 30, 2020. The Mars 2020 mission’s objectives include deploying the Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Experimental Helicopter; Perseverance will seek signs of life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to earth, and the Ingenuity Experimental Helicopter will be the first autonomous aircraft to fly on any planet in the solar system. The mission will last for at least one Mars year ꟷ 687 Earth days ꟷ landing on Mars at the Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

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JPL Engineers building the Mars 2020 Spacecraft

Adcole Space partnered with NASA Science Mission Directorate (Washington, D.C.) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of Caltech (Pasadena, CA) to provide Digital Sun Sensors for the Mars 2020 mission. The company has provided 2 complete Digital Sun Sensor Systems, consisting of 8 Digital Sun Sensor Heads and two Processing Electronics units. The Digital Sun Sensors provide the sun angle data to the space vehicle from the earth, from launch all the way to arrival at planet Mars. In addition, the Digital Sun Sensors provide precise positioning and trajectory data during the re-entry phase into the atmosphere on Mars.

The Adcole Space Digital Sun Sensors operate during the interplanetary cruise phase of the mission, providing critical positioning and trajectory data for the mission until about 12 minutes before re-entry on Mars.

Adcole Space Digital Sun Sensors provide critical positioning and trajectory data for the mission until about 12 minutes before re-entry on Mars.

Mars 2020 Mission Goals

The Mars 2020 mission is unusual because the mission has wide-ranging scientific goals focusing on human exploration and previous life on the planet. Specifically, the mission has 4 goals:

  • Determine if life ever existed on Mars
  • Characterize the climate on Mars
  • Characterize the geology of the planet Mars
  • Prepare for human exploration of Mars
The completed Mars 2020 Spacecraft ready for validation and testing.

Going forward, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s space agency (Roscosmos) plan to launch the ExoMars 2022 mission in 2022 to deliver a European rover (Rosalind Franklin) and a Russian surface platform (Kazachok). NASA and the ESA are solidifying concepts for a Mars Sample Return Campaign after NASA’s Perseverance Rover collects rock and sediment samples, storing them in sealed tubes to be left on the planet’s surface for future retrieval and return to Earth. NASA’s current concept is to deliver a lander with a NASA rocket named the Mars Ascent Vehicle, which will launch a special container holding the samples into Mars orbit, whereupon the orbiter will rendezvous with and capture the orbiting samples in order to return them to Earth.

About Adcole Space

Adcole Space is a world leader in Attitude Determination and Control Systems.

Headquartered in Marlborough, MA, Adcole Space specializes in the design, manufacture, integration, test, and operation of small satellites and spacecraft components. We combine new space technologies with a rich heritage in space flight and proven traditional space hardware to meet the emerging needs of the aerospace industry. Adcole Space’s team of engineers have a diverse range of skill sets and decades of mission experience. Combined with its state-of-the-art cleanroom facility, these assets enable the Company to deliver end-to-end space systems that meet exacting quality standards.

Established in 1957, AMA has been at the forefront of space exploration since its beginning, providing satellite components that are integral to the mission success of hundreds of low-earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous (GEO) and interplanetary spacecraft. By combining new space technologies with a proven heritage in space flight, Adcole Space is uniquely qualified to meet the complexity and demands of today’s growing and evolving space industry. The Company’s core capabilities include the design and manufacture of mission-critical, high reliability optical sensors for satellites providing guidance, navigation, situational awareness, and control capabilities. Key products include sun sensors, star trackers, and star cameras.

On March 3, 2020 AE Industrial Partners, LP, a private equity firm specializing in Aerospace, Defense & Government Services, Power Generation, acquired Adcole Maryland Aerospace from Adcole Corporation, a portfolio company of Artemis Capital Partners.

AE Industrial Partners is a private equity firm specializing in Aerospace, Defense & Government Services, Power Generation, and Specialty Industrial markets. AE Industrial Partners invests in market-leading companies that can benefit from our deep industry knowledge, operating experience, and relationships throughout target markets.