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The Perseverance Mars Rover uses SFK bearings as it collects or handles rock and regolith samples in Jezero Crater during its multiple-year mission on the surface of the red planet.
Enabling the Mars Rover’s core operations in the harsh environment on Mars are Kaydon RealiSlim thin-section ball bearings, designed and manufactured by SKF at the company’s global thin-section bearing engineering center in Muskegon, and its recently expanded manufacturing hub in Sumter, USA.
These components contribute to the rover’s main robotic arm, sample collecting turret, tool bit carousel and sample handling assembly during a months-long trip through space, and its function as intended on the Mars surface.
SKF also supplied critical bearings for the mission’s launch vehicle which carried the rover and its lander into space.
SKF bearings will play an integral role in the vital process of sample collection on Mars. When the rover is ready to begin collecting samples on the surface, the robotic arm will maneuver into place and the tool bit carousel will whirr into action, deploying tools to drill or abrade material, which will then be collected by the sample collecting turret (aka “the hand”) and transferred to the sample handling assembly for processing onboard the rover, and eventually a potential return to Earth for analysis via a future Mars mission.
Kaydon bearings are often customized from baseline models for specific customers and commonly used in applications that require a balance between strength, weight, size, functionality and reliability – including robotic surgical equipment, automated precision manufacturing, detailed painting, aircraft systems, airport security scanners and medical CT imagers.
In addition to the latest mission, SKF has a decades-long history as a supplier to global space programs, dating all the way back to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.