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New success for Thales space laser

07 February 2007

Thales's space laser programme has achieved a new milestone with the successful completion of shock-resistance tests at over 2,000 g in all three axes.

Designed to operate for two years on Mars after a 10-month voyage through space, the Thales laser has already demonstrated impressive performance, including energy delivery of 30 mJ per pulse across a temperature range of -30 to +30°C and the ability to withstand extremely hostile radiation and dust environments. Its ultra-compact size (20 cm long x 5 cm diameter) and low weight (less than 600 g) meet the requirements and constraints of space applications.

Developed by Thales in 2000, the DIVA laser with its low form factor, high energy delivery and exceptional beam quality soon attracted the attention of the French space agency (CNES*) and French space radiation research centre (CESR**) in Toulouse. In 2002, Thales, CNES and CESR jointly launched the ambitious ChemCam (Chemistry Camera) project to pioneer a completely new method for analysing Martian rocks.

Based on the principle of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), the ChemCam remote rock analysis instrument was selected in 2004 for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission to study the Red Planet.

The successful completion of tests to validate the ChemCam laser's ability to withstand vibrations and impacts in excess of 40 g rms and 2,000 g in all three axes marks a key milestone in the development of this technology.

The vision of the three partners to develop a revolutionary instrument to analyse Martian rock will soon become a reality as the flight model of the laser is now being readied for delivery to NASA in July 2007. The MSL2009 mission is scheduled to launch in 2009.

Note to editors

*Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales. CNES is providing funding for the space laser programme.

**Centre d'Etudes Spatiales et du Rayonnement

About Thales

Thales is a leading international electronics and systems group serving defence, aerospace and security markets worldwide, supported by a comprehensive services offering. The company's civil and military businesses develop in parallel to serve a single objective: the security of people, property and nations. Leveraging a global network of more than 20,000 high-level researchers, Thales offers a capability unmatched in Europe to develop and deploy critical information systems. Thales employs 60,000 people in 50 countries and generated revenues of €10.3 billion in 2005, with a record order book of over €20 billion.

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