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AVX Corporation’s Multianode Tantalum Capacitors Power Curiosity’s ChemCam Laser On Mars

AVX Corporation, a leading manufacturer of passive components and interconnect solutions, developed and supplied the 630 tantalum multianode capacitors that are responsible for powering the ChemCam laser module on-board Curiosity, which successfully landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. The ChemCam laser module, a combination of chemistry and camera equipment, is designed to analyze the chemical composition of rocks on Mars.

On August 20 th, Curiosity successfully fired its laser for the first time on Mars, interrogating a fist-sized rock called Coronation. The laser on the rover’s ChemCam hit the rock with 30 pulses in a 10-second period, each of which delivered more than one million watts of power for approximately five one-billionths of a second.

The ChemCam’s laser power sources had to meet extreme requirements, including small size, very lightweight packaging, and very high-power performance, and consist solely of well-established, high-reliability components. In cooperation with the Institut de Recherche en Astronomie et Planétologie (IRAP) and the Centre National d' Études Spatiales (CNES) in Toulouse, France, part of the ChemCam’s U.S.-French design team, AVX’s Tantalum Division in Lanskroun, Czech Republic and Biddeford, Maine, designed a large bank of 630 tantalum multianode capacitors (470µF 10V). Produced in AVX’s European Space Agency (ESA)-approved manufacturing facility in Lanskroun, Czech Republic and re-tested to MIL standards at AVX’s facilities in Biddeford, Maine, the devices, which were based on proven, high-quality AVX technology, provide very low ESR.

“We are all very excited about the great success of NASA’s latest Mars mission and the ChemCam project, and are delighted to be a part – even if only a small one – of this exciting and historic mission. This is a big step for all of us, and we wish Curiosity the best of luck,” said Tomas Zednicek, Ph.D., technical marketing manager at AVX Tantalum Division, Lanskroun, Czech Republic.

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