For nearly two decades, NASA has been acquiring information from rovers sent to explore the surface of Mars. High Performance Alloys played an integral role in the first Mars rover mission, Pathfinder and its successors, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity’s assembly.
The Indiana based company specializes in small orders. While larger companies need bulk orders, High Performance Alloys is able to take on smaller orders in a quick and timely manner. Nitronic 60 is one of the many alloys they work with and the material is readily available making it easy to fill orders for customers like NASA.
After manufacturing the high strength Nitronic 60, the product was then shipped to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s machine shop, where parts were machined to project specifications. High Performance Alloys supplied the Nitronic 60, one of their most popular products, for use on their mag wheels for the twin rovers and the mating nut material for the Pathfinder mission. Nitronic 60’s durability in harsh temperature climates made it the perfect fit for NASA.
Nitronic 60 is a stainless steel alloy that truly is all purpose. The alloy has been used for a variety of applications including automotive valves, fastener galling pins and marine shafts. The combination of low temperature durability, and toughness made Nitronic 60 a great fit for NASA’s purposes.
The Mars Pathfinder mission landed Sojourner, the first rover to land on the red planet. Nitronic 60 also played a part in the mating nut. Its resistance to galling were essential. Galling is a form of wear caused by adhesion, and galling in Nitronic is near nonexistent when properly mated.
The first of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit, landed on the red planet Jan. 4, 2004 and Opportunity just three weeks later. Their mission were originally set to be 90 sol (Martian days) and according to NASA, a sol is equivalent to roughly 24 hours and 37 minutes on Earth. Instead, Spirit continued to operate until its last communication on March 22, 2010. Opportunity, on the other hand, is still operating over a decade later.
Both of those rovers have supplied NASA with valuable information about the surface of Mars and searched for clues of any sign of water. They performed tests on minerals from the planet to determine their composition.
The mission to explore Mars continues to bring in important scientific information and High Performance Alloys is proud to have contributed to NASA’s mission, albeit in a small role.
Go here for more information about the cryogenic properties of Nitronic 60 .
Written by Kaegan Stogsdill