Northrop Grumman navigation sensor guides Mars rover exploration for 10th year

Mars Rover

On Jan. 24, NASA celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Opportunity rover's landing on Mars. The rover has outlived its anticipated 90-day life span to drive nearly 24 miles from its landing point in search of ancient, watery environments and microbial life on Mars.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems teams at the Woodland Hills and Salt Lake City campuses have made the Mars exploratory missions possible by designing and producing LN-200 products for several Mars rovers, including Opportunity. The LN 200S inertial measurement unit senses acceleration and angular motion, providing data outputs used by vehicle control systems for guidance. Additionally, the LN-200S helps position the rover’s antennae to relay photos and data to satellites. Opportunity has beamed back 187,000 raw images, according to NASA.

In addition, Opportunity has discovered clues about the possibility of water and, thus, microbial life, existing on the planet. For example, Opportunity has found clay minerals that formed in neutral-pH water; gypsum in rocks that likely resulted from water flowing through underground fractures in the rocks; and the mineral hematite, which typically forms in water.