NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in the Gale Crater on Mars on August 5, having flown over 127 million miles since its November 2011 launch. As part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Curiosity will look for evidence of past or present habitable environments.

TE Connectivity’s high-voltage relay was chosen to assist in the mission in the chromatograph unit. The relay is being used in Curiosity’s gas chromatography tool, which along with mass spectrometry and tunable-laser spectrometry, will study the chemistry relevant to life. The relay needed to meet the high demands for products that could provide as much space and weight savings as possible, while also performing in the extremes of a space environment and providing absolute reliability and long service life.

Rated for voltages to 5 kV, the single-pole, single-throw relay switches low-current loads up to 35 amps. To reduce size and weight, the relay uses a vacuum dielectric to achieve a size of 1.85" high and 0.65" in diameter, with a weight of 1 ounce. Performance includes a minimum mechanical life of 10 million cycles and a fast operating speed of 1 millisecond.

KILOVAC relays have been used in space applications for more than 30 years, since their first mission in lunar landing equipment in the 1970s. Today, they are used in space satellites and are currently used throughout the International Space Station.

The on-ground quality control and testing process of the relays included environmental, mechanical, and electrical tests. The testing process can take months — at times it may take as long as the actual manufacturing process of the relay.

KILOVAC K40P high-voltage relay
TE Connectivity
Harrisburg, PA

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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