Scroll Technology Headed to Mars On Board Perseverance Rover

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover features a compact scroll compressor developed by Air Squared for JPL.

P09H026A-BLDC-SH Scroll Compressor

The P09H026A-BLDC-SH Scroll Compressor Highlighted Inside MOXIE

Broomfield, CO – After years of development and flight qualification, the P09H026A-BLDC-SH scroll compressor is scheduled for spaceflight on the Mars 2020 mission. Scheduled to launch between July 30th and August 15th, 2020, the Perseverance rover will land in the Jezero Crater in February 2021.

The compact compressor on board the Perseverance rover is part of the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), one of seven state-of-the-art scientific instruments for acquiring information about Mars. While the car-sized rover was designed to better understand the geology of Mars and look for signs of ancient life, MOXIE will establish the feasibility of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), paving the way for future human habitation.

About the size of a car battery, MOXIE will produce O2 from the Martian atmosphere. While future O2 generators will need to be roughly one hundred times larger to support human missions, MOXIE will first demonstrate the feasibility of producing O2 that can be used for propellant and breathing.

As the only moving component in MOXIE, the reliability of the scroll compressor is critical. The P09H026A-BLDC-SH is designed to mechanically collect the Martian atmosphere consisting of 96% CO2 and boost from 3.5 – 7 torr up to 760 torr. Solid oxide electrolysis separation will then convert the Martian atmosphere into consumable O2.

After evaluating two-stage and single-stage compressor prototypes, Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) determined a single-stage orbiting scroll design was preferable to reduce complexity. The single-stage design was then advanced to incorporate patented features that allow for an increased volume ratio with minimal impact on size and weight. Over a three-year period, Air Squared then used on-site atmospheric chambers to extensively test the P09H026A-BLDC-SH and simulate the operating conditions of the harsh Martian environment.

Air Squared is incredibly proud to be at the cutting edge of compressor and vacuum pump development for space exploration and introduce the first space-qualified scroll design.

MOXIE UNIT

The seven scientific instruments in the Mars 2020 rover payload will primarily be used to help scientists investigate signs of past life on Mars. MOXIE, however, will demonstrate technology for future manned missions to the Red Planet.

Through a process called solid oxide electrolysis—think of a fuel cell working in reverse—MOXIE will demonstrate the ability to produce O2 from CO2 in the Martian atmosphere. With CO2 representing approximately 96% of the thin Martian atmosphere, the technology could be used to generate breathable air for astronauts while on Mars and potentially provide fuel for their return journey back to earth.

The MOXIE unit onboard the Mars 2020 rover represents a 1% scale model of the O2 processing plant required to support human expeditions to Mars. While manned missions will not be possible until at least 2030, MOXIE will provide scientists with invaluable data to design a full-scale Mars In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) facility.

ABOUT AIR SQUARED

Air Squared is the industry leader in oil-free scroll design and manufacturing. By introducing a simple design with fewer moving parts, scroll technology has established itself as a highly efficient, very reliable, cost-effective alternative. Through a growing line of compressor, vacuum pumps, and expanders, Air Squared makes the many advantages of oil-free scroll technology available to OEMs and specialty applications worldwide.

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