February 23, 2024
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Mars rover taps regional firms


The newest Mars rover being tested. Several regional firms created parts for the Mars rover Curiosity. (AMS Group courtesy photo)

The Mars rover Curiosity is set to touch down around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday with parts from several Central Coast companies.

Next Intent of San Luis Obispo made parts that help attach the wheels to the chassis of the rover, named the Mars Science Laboratory. Santa Maria-based Helical Products Co. made flexible couplings and machined springs for the vehicle. Next Intent’s products launched with the previous two Mars rovers, and Helical Products’ components flew on the first rover in 1997.

Helical Products made special titanium springs for the newest rover.

“With this design, we’ve created a very reliable and elegant solution,” application engineer Michael Haber said in a news release. “The spring also showcases the advantage of Helical Products technology to combine a number of components and features into one part which further increases reliability – a major concern for the Mars Rover especially since parts won’t be serviceable.”

Next Intent, which has made rover wheels in the past, was part of a three-company alliance called the AMS Group. This time, Next Intent made the titanium weldment arms and rotor housing on the rover’s chassis. The weldment arms connect the rotor housing to the wheel assembly, which itself was made by a partner company in the group. Next Intent has worked closely with Tapemation and CL Hann Industries, the two other partners in the alliance, to make different rover parts and systems over the years.

“This project provided a perfect opportunity to leverage the expertise and machining equipment services offered by the three AMS Group partners,” Rodney Babcock, president of Next Intent, said in a release.

Click here to watch live streaming video from NASA of the landing on Aug. 5. Click here for a feature story about Next Intent.