As the Curiosity rover makes its way across the Martian landscape, one local company in particular is watching with keen interest.
Next Intent, a San Luis Obispo-based firm that manufactures aerospace and spacecraft components, helped to build several components for Curiosity, including the titanium arm that attaches the wheel to the Rover chassis, a rotor joint that allows the arm to swivel and a drill at the end of the arm used to pull samples from the red planet for research, said Next Intent President Rodney Babcock.
Next Intent, founded in 1996 by Rodney and Cayse Babcock, is part of the AMS Group, a strategic alliance of three companies: Next Intent, Tapemation of Scotts Valley and San Jose-based CL Hann Industries.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system — chose the companies, which had success with previous Mars exploration rovers in 2003, to provide the components for Curiosity. The group works together on other projects for JPL and large clients such as Lockheed Martin.
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Babcock said Next Intent has been involved since the beginning of the project, which started about five years ago.
“Once you’re a good supplier to the Jet Propulsion Lab, and as long as you maintain good delivery and pricing, they keep coming back,” he said.
The spacecraft, with its six-wheel drive and suspension system, landed on Mars on Sunday night, and Babcock said he has been thrilled to see Curiosity in action.
“It’s super exciting,” he said. “I can’t wait to look at the magazine articles and the websites every single day. We want a successful mission and to extend the frontier of our knowledge about the red planet.”