Press Release

Alliance Spacesystems, Inc. Selected to Build Robotic Arm for Phoenix Mission to Mars

By SpaceRef Editor
May 4, 2005
Filed under , ,
Alliance Spacesystems, Inc. Selected to Build Robotic Arm for Phoenix Mission to Mars

Pasadena, Calif. – Alliance Spacesystems, Inc. (ASI) has been selected by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to build the robotic arm for the 2007 Phoenix mission to Mars.  The $5 million contract requires ASI to design, assemble, and deliver the mechanical portion for the identical engineering model and flight arms.  The design is derived from the robotic arm ASI delivered to JPL for the 2001 Mars Lander Project (MLP), which was later canceled.  The Phoenix version of the arm will be redesigned to take advantage of techniques used on ASI’s successful Mars Exploration Rover (MER) robotic arms.  These changes will make the Phoenix arm more robust and compatible with the new science objectives.

“ASI is proud to be delivering another robotic arm to help explore the Martian surface,” stated René Fradet, ASI’s President and CEO.  “We are confident that the Phoenix mission will be just as successful, both mechanically and scientifically, as the Mars Exploration Rovers.”

Phoenix will be landing on the icy northern pole of Mars in May of 2008.  It is believed that the ice-rich soil there may be one of the few habitable environments where a biological system can survive.  Because layers of ice in that region are believed to be affected by seasonal climate changes, they might contain organic compounds necessary for life.  Using its robotic arm, Phoenix will dig trenches up to half a meter deep into the layers.  Once the arm gathers samples, an oven will heat the icy soil to release volatiles that can be analyzed for composition and other characteristics. 

The mission is scheduled to operate for 90 Martian sols after landing, with use of the robotic arm beginning on about the 10th sol.  Phoenix will dig for approximately two and half hours per sol during this period, and will collect samples about every 15 cm, or when it is obvious that the arm has reached a new layer in the ice. 

The goal of the Phoenix mission is to identify the current processes shaping the northern plains and expose any indication of Martian life.  The Phoenix mission is managed by JPL and is part of NASA’s Scout program, which is an initiative for smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft.

About Alliance Spacesystems, Inc.: ASI is a leading provider of mechanical systems for the most demanding aerospace and commercial applications.  ASI provides robotics, mechanisms, composite structures and mechanical analyses for systems operating in extreme environments. ASI’s innovative products have seen use in interplanetary spacecraft, telecommunications and scientific satellites and challenging terrestrial applications. Its technical staff has a broad range of direct experience on over eighty space programs ranging from deep-space and Mars missions to numerous low-cost small satellites.  The privately held firm’s core competencies include space vehicle systems engineering, mechanisms, structural and dynamics analysis, structural system design, structural dampers and actuators. See more at

SpaceRef staff editor.