Because December was a huge holiday focus, we wanted to recap some big NASA news that flew under the radar that month. As industry professionals connected to and involved with the aerospace industry, we like to highlight the ins and outs of space agency projects and missions in an effort to ensure that the resources and materials that engineers need are on hand.
On Dec 22, 2015, NASA announced that the launch of the Mars lander, InSight, is going to be delayed indefinitely. The InSight lander was developed as a stand-alone Discovery mission to reveal key details about the seismic activity and internal structure of the planet, including the size of the core. It was scheduled to launch March 2016, but discovery of a leaking instrument has currently grounded the mission.
Working in collaboration with CNES (the French Space agency) and DLR (the German space agency) NASA discovered a leak in the vacuum chamber surrounding a seismometer supplied by CNES. The instrumentation is so precise that it requires a perfect vacuum to deliver reliable results. The engineering team was aware of the leak and delivered a series of fixes to seal the chamber; however, in simulated tests of the extreme cold temperatures of Mars, air was still making its way into the chamber. The next launch window won’t come until mid-2018 and it is still undetermined if it will launch at all.
This recent breaking news from the aerospace industry reveals how important it is for the materials and systems to be error free. Just the slightest bit of air leaking into the chamber renders the instrumentation useless and the mission results unusable. As specialists with specialty metals and alloys, we understand this importance.