Long cable deployments during Martian touchdown: Lessons learned

Michael W. Shafer, Steven W. Sell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The launch of NASA/JPL's next generation Mars rover is planned for the fall of 2011. The landing scheme chosen for this rover represents a step forward in unmanned payload delivery. The rover will be lowered from a rocket powered descent stage and then placed onto the surface while hanging from three bridles. During this touchdown event, the communication between the rover and descent stage is maintained by an electrical umbilical cable which is deployed in parallel with the structural bridles. During the development of the deployment device for the electrical umbilical, many obstacles were identified and overcome. Many of these challenges were due in large part to the helical nature of the packing geometry of the umbilical cable. And although none of these issues resulted in the failure of the design, they increased both development and assembly time. Many of the issues and some of the benefits of a helical deployment were not immediately apparent during the trade studies carried out during the deployment selection process. Tests were conducted upon completion of the device in order to characterize both the deployment and separation characteristics of the cable. Extraction loads were needed for inputs to touchdown models and separation dynamics were required to assess cable-rover recontact risk. Understanding the pros and cons surrounding the deployment of a helically packed cable would most certainly influence the outcome of future trade studies surrounding the selection of cable deployment options. 1 2

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2009 IEEE Aerospace Conference
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
Event2009 IEEE Aerospace Conference - Big Sky, MT, United States
Duration: Mar 7 2009Mar 14 2009

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Conference2009 IEEE Aerospace Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky, MT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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