Mars 2020 rover: Heat shield cracked in testing

PIA14835-16A post-test inspection of the composite structure for a heat shield to be used on the Mars 2020 mission revealed that a fracture occurred during structural testing. The mission team is working to build a replacement heat shield structure. The situation will not affect the mission’s launch readiness date of July 17, 2020.

Project management at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is working with contractor Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, to understand the cause of the fracture and determine whether any design changes need to be incorporated into a replacement.

The fracture, which occurred near the shield’s outer edge and spans the circumference of the component, was discovered on April 12, after the shield completed a week-long test at the Lockheed Martin Space facility. The test was designed to subject the heat shield to forces up to 20 percent greater than those expected during entry into the Martian atmosphere. While the fracture was unexpected, it represents why spaceflight hardware is tested in advance so that design changes or fixes can be implemented prior to launch. [More at link]

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