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Qualification Testing of Laser-Firing ChemCam

NASA runs a number of spectacular current missions. Its Curiosity rover, for example, studies climate and geology on Mars and investigates its past habitability. It is equipped with a number of science instruments.

The head-mounted „Chemistry & Camera“ instrument („ChemCam“) mainly consists of a powerful laser, spectrographs and a camera. The primary objectives of ChemCam are to rapidly analyze rocks and soil to determine their compositions and to identify samples. It emits powerful laser pulses - each one blasts over a million watts - to energize atoms in the target rock, turning them into glowing plasma. A telescope captures the light from the plasma, and then three on-board spectrometers analyze it to determine the composition.

Curiosity rover antenna test shaker
Vibration testing of Curiosity rover’s “ChemCam” at Mecano ID, Toulouse/France

Qualification testing of the ChemCam was done at Mecano ID in Toulouse/France. They performed comprehensive vibration tests using 48- to 80-channel m+p VibControl systems and a 70 kN shaker in a clean room class 100.000. Vibration controllers by m+p international are renowned for their high quality, performance and reliability – hence, characteristics that are crucial for successful testing in aerospace applications.

By the way, Airbus Defence and Space (formerly: EADS CASA) in Madrid/Spain was responsible for design, analysis and full qualification and acceptance testing of Curiosity's high-gain communication antenna. They used a 96-channel m+p VibControl system and a 90 kN shaker for vibration testing of Curiosity’s communication antenna.

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