NASA picks Mason’s L3Harris to bring Mars samples home

NASA has extended its partnership with a Warren County company.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has selected Mason’s L3Harris Technologies to provide the latest Universal Space Transponder (UST) for its “Mars Sample Return program,” which is developing capabilities to return Martian samples to Earth for analysis, the Mason company said Tuesday.

The UST communication device enables transmission of data, video, audio and telemetry information to and from Earth, pushing data the 250 million miles to Mars within minutes, while also relaying information between other spacecraft deployed to Mars, L3Harris said.

“L3Harris’ highly reliable space communications links transmit the data, images and audio files to enable exploration of the universe,” Kristin Houston, president of L3Harris’ Electro Optical Sector, said in a release. “Recently, this vital communication link made it possible for JPL to send updated software commands to (Mars rover) Perseverance that were then transmitted to the Ingenuity helicopter, allowing for its historic first flight.”

For 20 years, every U.S. rover on Mars and orbiting spacecraft mission has used L3Harris transceivers including the current Perseverance lander and orbiting spacecraft.

Numerous NASA programs have relied on L3Harris’ high reliability designs, manufacturing expertise and technology – from early spacecraft through the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle, International Space Station and previous Mars missions.

L3Harris has some $18 billion in annual revenue and 47,000 employees, with customers in more than 100 countries.

The company has about 800 employees in Mason.

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