[FPSPACE] Spirit rover's power is running down, due to dust storms

Rick Kline kline at astro.cornell.edu
Thu Nov 13 12:44:32 EST 2008

Of course the obvious problem with rotating solar panels, or even moving 
the ones that are on the MER spacecraft is that any moving part can stop 
moving in the least desired position.  Sort of the Murphy's Law of 
spacecraft operations.  This concept is the one behind the decision to 
make the MER Pancam lens covers stationary - since the camera bar was 
designed to tilt to allow for close and far range imaging, the built-in 
motion is used to lower the Pancam aperatures onto the covers, rather 
than moving the covers to the cameras, where they could jam.  Voyager 
2's scan platform was in danger of sticking, so once it was placed in a 
useful orientation, it was left there, and the spacecraft itself was 
slewed to track targets during the Neptune encounter.

Rick Kline
Data Manager
Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility

agzak at optonline.net wrote:
> Many satellites are designed to rotate their solar panels to maximize power input. The same type of device could take care of dust accumulating on solar panels. During MER missions, flight controllers did have to place the rover on the slope to maximize power. It seems that making rotating solar panels is better solution than reliance on winds in the Martian atmosphere.   
> Anatoly Zak
> http://www.russianspaceweb.com
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: James Oberg <jameseoberg at comcast.net>
> Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:31 am
> Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Spirit rover's power is running down,due to dust storms
> To: agzak at optonline.net, fpspace at friends-partners.org
>> The story was about a dust storm in the upper atmosphere causing
>> an area-wide 'brown-out'.
>> That's way beyond the range of any gas jets on the rover.
>> The amazing longevity of the rover mechanisms -- even the TES crystals
>> which were supposed to shatter in the cold of the first winter -- 
>> tempts us 
>> to
>> re-design the original vehicle, armed with precognition. I wonder 
>> if the
>> trade-off between some instrument left behind, replaced by a solar 
>> panel 
>> cleaning
>> device of equal weight and power consumption, would have led to the 
>> choiceof the cleaner. If so, it would have been the wrong choice, 
>> since it turns 
>> out
>> the martian atmosphere provides self-cleaning episodes at no cost 
>> to the 
>> rovers.
>> The science would have been sacrificed to no operational advantage.
>> These rovers aren't going to live forever -- but they may outlive 
>> some of 
>> us!
>> Amazing, from all angles. But as for implications of future vehicle 
>> design -- that's
>> another story.
>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: <agzak at optonline.net>
>> To: <fpspace at friends-partners.org>
>> Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 10:11 AM
>> Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Spirit rover's power is running down,due to 
>> dust 
>> storms
>> It seems that some relatively simple solutions such as rotating or 
>> blowing 
>> solar panels with cold gas could resolve the problem and prolong 
>> these 
>> missions. I am wondering if anything like that is considered for 
>> future 
>> spacecraft. (Of course, placing an RTG on the rover eliminates the 
>> problem 
>> altogether).
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   "Better to wave at a stranger than to ignore a friend."
 Rick Kline
 Data Manager, Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility
 317 Space Sciences Building
 Cornell University
 Ithaca, NY   14853-6801

 e-mail:                     Phone:          fax:
 kline at astro.cornell.edu  607-255-3833    607-255-9002
 web: http://astro.cornell.edu/facilities/SPIF.php

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