Lockheed Martin Validates Heatshield for the Mars 2020 Rover Mission

The 15-foot wide heatshield, one half of the rover’s aeroshell, is the largest that Lockheed Martin has ever produced.

(Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin Corporation)

Lockheed Martin Corporation  (Lockheed Martin) successfully completed development and testing for the heatshield that will protect NASA  Jet Propulsion Laboratory  (JPL) Mars 2020  rover during its descent to the Martian surface. After completing the flight hardware structure, Lockheed Martin tested the heatshield’s physical integrity by exposing it to ‘flight-like’ thermal conditions.

The heatshield serves as one half of the rover’s large, sophisticated, two-part aeroshell. Beyond protecting the rover from the extreme friction and heat that occurs during entry into the Martial atmosphere, the heatshield’s aerodynamics will act as a descent ‘brake’ to decelerate the spacecraft from approximately 12,000 miles per hour (19,300 kilometers per hour).

To validate the heatshield’s structure, engineers used vacuum pumps to simulate the load that the heat shield will experience during entry. The heatshield withstood approximately 140,000 pounds on pressure – 20 percent beyond of the expected flight load.

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..