The Manufacturers' Agenda

Ohio Manufacturers' High-Tech Contribution to Mars Curiosity

I didn't have to look far for U.S.-based manufacturers that contributed to NASA's Mars Curiosity, as I promised to do in an earlier column, Of Manufacturing and NASA's Mars Curiosity Mission.

Several are located in IndustryWeek's backyard, according to an article in the The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's local newspaper. John Colm, president & executive director of Cleveland, Ohio-based WIRE-Net, graciously provided a summary (and I added some additional links) as follows:

GrafTech International (IW500/497) made materials for the heat shield that protected the one-ton Curiosity from as much as 3,800-degree temperatures as it hurtled toward Mars's surface.

Cleveland's Eaton Corp. (IW500/73), Canton's Timken Co. (IW500/207), and Mayfield Heights' Materion (IW500/438) all made components for the Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) module, the 88-pound collection of devices that effectively is an automated chemistry lab that can break down rock samples for complex analysis.

According to the report, SAM's central carousel rests on Timken bearings. The carousel will rotate, allowing the collection of different material samples and different scientific instruments to be used.

Timken also supplied two miniature bearings, each about a quarter inch in diameter, in a vacuum pump the size of a flashlight battery. Several of the SAM's chemistry tests will need to take place in a vacuum.

Eaton supplied the SAM with specialty C-Seals, highly engineered devices that will keep helium from leaking out of Curiosity. The SAM uses helium in several of its tests.

Eaton makes C-Seals for several aerospace and industrial functions ranging from high-pressure water pumps to liquid nitrogen storage. The company said it altered those seals for NASA's use.

Also on the SAM are materials from advanced materials company Materion. The company's Barr Precision Optics & Thin Film Coatings provided films for use on several of the SAM's analyzers. The company formerly known as Brush Engineered Materials bought Barr in 2010.

In Southern Ohio, L-3 Cincinnati Electronics in Mason helped design and build the radios that Curiosity will use to transmit data it has collected back to Earth.

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