The ChemCam Instrument Suite on the Mars Science Laboratory MSL Rover: Body Unit and Combined System TestsReport as inadecuate

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Space Science Reviews

, Volume 170, Issue 1–4, pp 167–227

First Online: 21 June 2012Received: 12 November 2011Accepted: 22 May 2012


The ChemCam instrument suite on the Mars Science Laboratory MSL rover Curiosity provides remote compositional information using the first laser-induced breakdown spectrometer LIBS on a planetary mission, and provides sample texture and morphology data using a remote micro-imager RMI. Overall, ChemCam supports MSL with five capabilities: remote classification of rock and soil characteristics; quantitative elemental compositions including light elements like hydrogen and some elements to which LIBS is uniquely sensitive e.g., Li, Be, Rb, Sr, Ba; remote removal of surface dust and depth profiling through surface coatings; context imaging; and passive spectroscopy over the 240–905 nm range. ChemCam is built in two sections: The mast unit, consisting of a laser, telescope, RMI, and associated electronics, resides on the rover’s mast, and is described in a companion paper. ChemCam’s body unit, which is mounted in the body of the rover, comprises an optical demultiplexer, three spectrometers, detectors, their coolers, and associated electronics and data handling logic. Additional instrument components include a 6 m optical fiber which transfers the LIBS light from the telescope to the body unit, and a set of onboard calibration targets. ChemCam was integrated and tested at Los Alamos National Laboratory where it also underwent LIBS calibration with 69 geological standards prior to integration with the rover. Post-integration testing used coordinated mast and instrument commands, including LIBS line scans on rock targets during system-level thermal-vacuum tests. In this paper we describe the body unit, optical fiber, and calibration targets, and the assembly, testing, and verification of the instrument prior to launch.

KeywordsMars Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy LIBS RMI Mars Science Laboratory MSL Curiosity Gale Crater Laser plasma ChemCam Abbreviations2DTwo dimensional

ASDAnalytical Spectral Devices

ATLOAssembly, test, and launch operations phase

BIFBanded iron formation, a Precambrian layered sediment

bpsBits per second

BUBody unit


CCCTChemCam calibration target assembly, on board the rover

CCDCharge coupled device

CDRCritical design review

CMSClay Mineral Society

CWLContinuous-wave laser, used for autofocus

CNESCentre National d’Etudes Spatiales French space agency

csvComma-separated values, a data format


DNDigital number

DPUData processing unit

EDSEnergy dispersive spectroscopy

EDUEngineering development unit

EEPROMElectrically erasable programmable read-only memory

EMEngineering model

EQMEngineering qualification model

ePTFEExpanded polytetrafluoroethylene

FMFlight model

FOCFiber optic cable

FPGAField programmable gate array

FWHMFull width at half maximum

HSSHigh speed serial

ICAIndependent component analysis, a type of multivariate analysis


IRAPInstitut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie, the lead ChemCam institution in France

JPLJet Propulsion Laboratory

kBKilo bytes

kbpsKilo bits per second

kHzKilo Hertz

LANLLos Alamos National Laboratory

LIBSLaser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

LVDSLow voltage differential signal

LVPSLow voltage power supply

LPMLines per millimeter

MbpsMillion bits per second

MERMars Exploration Rovers, launched 2003

MHzMillion Hertz per second

MSLICEMars Science Laboratory interface

MUMast unit

mVMilli Volts

MVAMultivariate analysis

NANumerical aperture


OHOxygen and hydrogen

OOIOcean Optics, Incorporated

PDRPreliminary design review

PLSPartial least squares regression of principle components

PMTPhoto-multiplier tube

PQVPackaging qualification and verification

PRTPlatinum resistance thermister

PSTBPayload system test-bed

QThermal energy

QEQuantum efficiency

RAMPRover accessory mounting plate, the main mounting surface for instruments and electronics in the interior of the rover body

RCERover compute element rover onboard computer

RDRReduced data record, a level-1 data product

RMIRemote micro-imager

rmsRoot mean square

RSMRemote sensing mast

RTGRadio-isotope thermal generator

RWEBRemote warm electronics box

SAMSample Analysis on Mars, the rover instrument for mass spectrometry and gas chromatograph analyses

SEMScanning electron microscope

SOHState of health


SRAMStatic random access memory

STTRover system thermal test, part of ATLO

TECThermal-electric cooler

UARTUniversal asynchronous receiver-transmitter

UVUltraviolet spectral range


VIOViolet spectral range

VNIRVisible and near-infrared spectral range


WDSWavelength-dispersive spectroscopy

XRDX-ray diffraction

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