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Curiosity depends on Reali-Slim bearings

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The Curiosity rover landed on Mars on Aug. 6. It features large, advanced scientific payload of any Mars mission yet as well as bearings from Reali-Slim. 

There are two important areas where the five pairs of bearings from CGB Precision Products , Kaydon Bearings Division save space and weight. Firstly preparing rock material samples for analysis and also supporting the steering actuators for the rover’s wheels.

About the size of a small SUV, the one-ton Curiosity, assesses whether the environment near its landing site might once have been able to support life by analysing samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground.
 
One pair of duplexed Reali-Slim bearings is in the CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In-Situ Rock Analysis) and is one of a number of devices mounted on a turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. These angular contact bearings with a 3-inch O.D. are a key part of the thwack mechanism that must keep the primary sieve from clogging so that samples can reach the analytical instruments. 

150-micron and 1mm are the size of the tiny holes in the screens of the sieves. This allows them to produce particles of the appropriate size; just like a crushed aspirin.  The engineers from JPL made the decision early on that this was the best solution, being a convenient way to handle the load in the small space available.

The other four sets of Kaydon bearings (7-inch O.D. 6-inch bore) support the steering actuators on Curiosity’s four corners and relieve some of the load on them, which was critical during the landing.  Like those in the CHIMRA, these bearings are angular contact in duplex pairs, with races and balls of 440C stainless steel and a built-in preload. 

Expected to cover about 660 feet of Martian terrain per day, with a typical speed of about one inch per second the latest rover begins collecting samples in September. For the next 23 months data will be sent (images and a variety of scientific observations) back to Earth, where scientists hope the $2.5 billion mission will shed light on the question of whether there is or has ever been, life on Mars.

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