Tecnalia. Inspiring Business

Tecnalia. Inspiring Business

We’re taking part on a mission to Mars


We are participating in the future international Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, which will take a capsule to the second-smallest planet in the solar system in order to bring physical samples back to Earth

Carried out together with the European Space Agency (ESA), the project has resulted in a heatshield covering the return capsule to Earth that can withstand extreme temperatures so as to bring physical samples back from Mars.

The capsule that returns from Mars will break space history records in velocity upon re-entry to Earth. It is believed that a speed 50 times faster than the speed of sound will be attained, and that temperatures could reach up to 3,000 degrees. To be able to withstand the wave of heat, a heatshield able to protect the capsule must be created with state-of-the-art materials to respond efficiently to high velocities upon breaching the atmosphere.

The latest development is the creation of a heatshield made of the newest light ablative materials that decompose. These single-use materials entail a reduced cost. At TECNALIA, we have characterised the new material and carried out assembly, integrating all sensors and performing the final machining of layer components already received from ArianeGroup. The material used is composed of phenolic resin-impregnated carbon fibres, the only material capable of withstanding the heat generated in the capsule when it leaves a planet to return to Earth.

Until now, this material had only been used in the United States. However, together with ArianeGroup, comprised by Airbus, the high-technology multinational Safran and DLR, a European version of the material has now been employed and manufactured at a lower cost.

Now that European capacity for participating in the Mars Sample Return mission has been demonstrated, we await the culmination of the assignment to construct the true prototype for this mission.

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Parque Científico y Tecnológico de Bizkaia. Astondo Bidea, Edificio 700. E-48160 Derio. Bizkaia (Spain). Tel.: 902.760.000 - International Calls: (+34) 946.430.850