High Gain Antenna Gimbal (HGAG) for the Mars 2020 rover

High Gain Antenna Gimbal designed by SENER.

SENER is contributing to the new space vehicle for the upcoming Mars exploration mission of the NASA, called Mars 2020 or M2020, whose launch date is set for summer 2020.

SENER, which also provided this same mechanism for the Curiosity rover, used on a previous NASA Mars mission —Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)— will design, manufacture, test and integrate the pointing mechanism for the high gain antenna that allows direct two-way communication between the rover and tracking stations on Earth.

As on the MSL mission, SENER is responsible for the HGAG pointing mechanism in cooperation with Airbus Defence and Space, which is acting as the main contractor for the system that comprises the gimbal and the high gain antenna. The contract was awarded as part of the technology collaboration agreement between NASA and the Spanish Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI, in its Spanish acronym), and as a continuation of the contribution to the MSL mission.

The pointing mechanism has two degrees of freedom, azimuth and elevation, and is integrated on the rover platform, from where it can point the antenna precisely toward Earth. An actuator moves each axis independently to achieve the required velocity and accuracy. SENER is also responsible for the hold down and release mechanism that provides a mechanical connection during launch and allows the subsequent operation of the antenna in Mars.