SEP 15, 2019 5:17 AM PDT

Mars 2020 Rover Gets the Spin Table Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA plans to launch the Mars 2020 rover mission by July 2020, a move that should spell out a February 2021 landing. But before the rover is ready for launch, there are few finishing touches that the team needs to add to ensure proper landing and function when it finally arrives at the red planet.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory attached a fully autonomous drone-like helicopter to the rover’s chassis, but more recently, engineers at JPL have placed the assembled 2,300-pounch chassis on a spin table to rotate it back and forth.

The Mars 2020 chassis spinning as engineers determine its center of gravity.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It may seem like a pointless endeavor to the untrained eye, but this process is actually rather important to rover-centric missions. By rotating the assembled chassis back and forth like this, engineers at JPL can ascertain the Mars 2020 rover’s center of gravity and improve it by adding metal weights to ensure stability when the rover lands on the Martian surface.

Related: The Mars 2020 rover will sport 20/20 vision

"The spin table process is similar to how a gas station would balance a new tire before putting it on your car," elucidated Lemil Cordero, one of the engineers who worked with the Mars 2020 rover during the balancing act.

"We rotate the rover back and forth and look for asymmetries in its mass distribution. Then, similar to your gas station putting small weights on the tire's rim to bring it into balance, we'll put small balance masses on the rover in specific locations to get its center of gravity exactly where we want it."

Related: Here's how the Mars 2020 mission is progressing so far

After approximating the chassis’ center of gravity, JPL engineers performed a few mathematical calculations and identified where it needed improvement. In a public statement, NASA said that 44 pounds’ worth of tungsten weights were then added to the bottom of the rover to make it more bottom-heavy, as a top-heavy rover would be unstable as it falls from the sky.

It’s worth noting that this was just a preliminary spin test. A second spin test will purportedly occur next Spring at a second location just before the rover is set to launch. This will ensure that any changes to the Mars 2020 rover between now and then retain the ideal center of gravity and that there weren’t any errors the first time.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
SpaceX Demos Crew Dragon Launch Escape for NASA
SpaceX is one of two major players in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, an attempt to use third-party space companie ...
JAN 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2020
Astronomers Have Found the Farthest Galaxy Group
An international team of astronomers funded in part by NASA has found the farthest galaxy group identified to date.  ...
MAR 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 01, 2020
Astronomers Say it Was the Biggest Explosion Detected Since the Big Bang
When you’re an astronomer, you come to grips with the fact that the job involves a lot of waiting and watching as ...
MAR 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 03, 2020
What Makes Black Holes So Mysterious?
Black holes are mysterious objects that have long tickled the interest of astronomers and physicists alike. They’r ...
MAY 18, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 18, 2020
Top Secret Military X-37B Space Plane Heads Back to Outer Space
Not much is known about the United States’ Space Force’s top-secret X-37B military space plane apart from th ...
MAY 25, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 25, 2020
Virgin Orbit Wants to Launch Space Rockets From 747 Jets
Entities from all around the world, be it companies or government space agencies, are continuously innovating in an atte ...
Loading Comments...