On-Demand Webinars: Motion Control

Customizing Actuators Using COTS Drive Components for Martian Mission Mechanisms


Mars rover missions push the boundaries of technology while creating collaboration opportunities to meet the unique demands of space travel. One example involves COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) drive components that are combined and customized, using advanced manufacturing technology, into an actuator for a mission-critical mechanism in the Mars 2020 rover.

This 60-minute Webinar focuses on the development of the actuators for various Mars rover missions, how technological advancements and challenges push components to their limits, and how the right partnership brings out the most value when collaborating on an extreme application such as exploring another planet. It also shows how such important advancements can be used for more down-to-earth applications.

The presentation covers why history, technology, collaboration, and forward-thinking matter.

History Matters

Anything that pushes technology forward provides greater capabilities. This presentation examines how standard industrial motors were prepared for Sojourner (the first Mars rover) and explains how each trip not only served to prove new technology for the next but also provided valuable feedback that was applied to next-generation industrial motors. An example of this process resulted in the helicopter that was developed for the latest Mars mission.

Technology Matters

Technology matters when industrial designs are pushed beyond their intended limits to offer greater precision while operating in harsh environments – with a no-fail requirement. The presentation shows how relatively small design changes to industrial brushed and brushless DC motors, gearheads, and encoders make huge differences in capabilities, thereby enabling an industrial design to be used on Mars.

Collaboration Matters

With each Mars rover mission requiring greater flexibility and more capabilities, collaboration between industrial partners and the commissioning research institutes is key. Effective partnerships allow participants to learn from each other's experiences about what worked and what didn’t, what can be tweaked for better performance, and how to find new opportunities for expanded research.

Forward-Thinking Matters

Technology-forward is a thought process by which designers continually ask, “What more can be achieved?” When continually adapting to new environments requiring higher levels of capabilities, manufacturers can be assured that the efforts they expend on low-volume space missions not only help the science and exploration mission directly but also the evolution and improvement of their standard products.

An audience Q&A follows the technical presentation.


Robin Phillips, Aerospace Project Manager, maxon
Eric Besnard, President & CEO, Flight Works


Lisa Arrigo, Tech Briefs Media Group & SAE International