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BAE SYSTEMS Microprocessors Enroute To Mars

25 Jul 2003

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched two Mars Exploration Rovers on seven-month journeys to Mars. The Rovers are outfitted with BAE Systems radiation-hardened RAD6000 computers that will process and send data back to earth to help NASA search for evidence about ancient water on Mars.

The first launch occurred June 10 from Kennedy Space Center. That Rover, named Spirit, is expected to land south of Mars equator on Jan. 4, while the second spacecraft, named Opportunity was launched July 7 and will land on the other side of the planet Jan. 25. Both spacecraft will descend to the red planet using rockets, parachutes, and inflatable balloons. Once on the surface the solar-powered Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will drive off their landers to begin studying minerals in rocks. Theyll travel up to 132 feet each day and operate at temperatures dropping to down to minus 100 degrees centigrade at night.

As Spirit and Opportunity move about the surface searching for clues to past environments of Mars, robotic tools on the Rovers will investigate interesting rocks and other geological formations. The navigation of the Rovers and the scientific analysis require brainpower, said Tom Bowmaster, BAE Systems program manager for the Information & Electronic Warfare Systems (IEWS) unit. The RAD6000 truly is the brains of the Rover and can process more than 20 million software instructions per second to perform this complex mission, he said.

The RAD6000 is a high-performance 32-bit Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) that provides powerful and flexible solutions for space applications.

Since 1995, IEWS facility in Manassas, Virginia, has delivered more than 300 radiation-hardened computers that have been launched and operated in space. The RAD6000 was also the single control and data computer used on the successful Pathfinder mission, which landed on Mars in 1997. The RAD6000 is one of a family of radiation-hardened computers developed and produced by BAE Systems with the support of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory and other Department of Defense organizations.


BAE Systems is an international company engaged in the development, delivery and support of advanced defence and aerospace systems in the air, on land, at sea and in space. The company designs, manufactures and supports military aircraft, surface ships, submarines, radar, avionics, communications, electronics and guided weapon systems. It is a pioneer in technology with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years. It is at the forefront of innovation, working to develop the next generation of intelligent defence systems.

BAE BAE Systems has major operations across five continents and customers in some 130 countries. The company has 100,000 people and generates annual sales of approximately 12 billion through its wholly-owned and joint venture operations.

BAE Systems, innovating for a safer world.

BAE Systems North America is a high-technology U.S. company employing more than 25,000 people who live and work in some 30 states, the District of Columbia, and the United Kingdom. The company is dedicated to solving its customers’ needs with highly innovative and leading edge solutions across the defence electronics, systems, information technology, and services arenas.

BAE Systems Information & Electronic Warfare Systems employs more than 5,500 people at ten major facilities in eight states. The business unit is a major producer of aircraft self-protection systems and tactical surveillance and intelligence systems for all branches of the armed forces. Other major business areas include microwave, mission and space electronics; infrared imaging; and automated mission planning systems.

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