Research was conducted on the qualification of Honeywell platinum resistance thermometer (PRT) bonding for use in the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). This is the first time these sensors will be used for Mars-related projects. Different types of PRTs were employed for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project, and several reliability issues were experienced, even for a short-duration mission like MER compared to MSL. Therefore, the development of a qualification process for the Honeywell PRT bonding was needed for the MSL project. Reliability of the PRT sensors, and their bonding processes, is a key element to understand the health of the hardware during all stages of the project, and particularly during surface operations on Mars. Three extreme temperature summer season cycles and three winter season cycles (total: 1983 thermal cycles) were completed, and no Honeywell PRT failures associated with the bonding process were found.
Seventy-eight PRTs were bonded onto six different substrate materials using four different adhesives during the thermal cycling, which included a planetary protection cycle to +125 ºC for two hours, three protoflight/qualification cycles (–135 to 70 ºC), 1,384 summer cycles (–105 to 40 ºC), and 599 winter cycles (–130 to 15 ºC). There were no observed changes in PRT resistances, bonding characteristics, or damage identified from the package evaluation as a result of the qualification tests.