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Aeroflex equipment vital to Mars rover

NASA engineer Mike Watkins describes the deployment of

NASA engineer Mike Watkins describes the deployment of the main mast of Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif., on Tuesday. Parts of the Mars rover were made in Hauppauge. (Aug. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: MCT

Some Long Island-built hardware was aboard the Mars rover Curiosity when it landed on the Red Planet Monday morning.

Aeroflex Holding Corp. Inc., headquartered in Plainview, says it provided actuators and microelectronics for this mission as well as for previous ones to explore the planet closest to Earth.

The company employs 2,800 people worldwide, including 288 in Plainview and Hauppauge. It gets about 30 percent of its $729 million in annual revenue from the U.S. government, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Curiosity actuators, produced in Aeroflex's motion control facility in Hauppauge, drive the one-ton mobile rover's six wheels and help control its steering, robotic arm joint motion, high-gain antenna and camera and various instrument functions.

"Aeroflex's actuators were designed to meet the challenges of the grueling Martian atmosphere, including -120 degree centigrade temperatures and a volatile dust environment," the company said in an email Tuesday outlining its role in the NASA project.

The actuators provided included a range of low-, medium- and high-torque designs that were used in almost every motion-related activity on Curiosity, the company said.

Aeroflex said its high-performance microelectronics also were utilized throughout the Curiosity vehicle and its descent system.

NASA has called the Curiosity the first full-fledged mobile science lab sent to a distant world.

The rover comes equipped with an array of sophisticated instruments capable of analyzing samples of soil, rocks and atmosphere on the spot and beaming results back to Earth.

Its landing was a major milestone in a two-year, $2.5-billion project whose primary focus is chemistry and geology.

On Tuesday, scientists scanned early images sent from the rover of an ancient crater that may hold clues about whether life ever took hold on Earth's planetary cousin.

Aeroflex manufactures test and measuring equipment and advanced microelectronic multi-chip modules for airborne, space, shipboard, ground-based and commercial avionics and telecom systems.

With Reuters

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