MINDEN — A Minden firm celebrated the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission on Thursday, having manufactured some of the components that helped protect a rover expected to begin traversing the Red Planet in several months.
Royal Engineered Composites, long a supplier of equipment for military and civilian aerospace customers, crafted parts in Minden for use in the environmental control system for Thursday’s Atlas V rocket launch by the United Launch Alliance.
“The ducting components we manufactured helped to keep the payload, which in this case was the rover, cool while it sat on the launch platform in Florida,” said Dave Arnold, president of Royal. “They were expended along with the nose cone of the rocket after it exited Earth’s atmosphere.”
Thursday’s launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station sent the Perseverance rover and the attached Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on their way toward Mars, tens of millions of miles away.
The Mars 2020 mission is expected to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.
United Launch Alliance is a U.S. spacecraft launch service provider that manufactures and operates a number of rocket vehicles capable of launching spacecraft into orbits around Earth and to other bodies in the solar system.
Components Royal supplied for ULA’s Atlas V rocket also have enabled the company to launch other missions, including a prior Mars mission.
“We have been very proud to support ULA and NASA on a variety of missions,” Arnold said. “We supported the launch of the Curiosity rover back in 2011 and were honored when they came back to us to support this latest mission. It’s not every day that parts we make in Minden, Nebraska, help launch something to another planet.”
Royal Engineered Composites is a fully integrated manufacturer of advanced composite structures for aerospace purposes.
The company was founded in Minden by Harley Cole in 1949 as Royal Plastic Manufacturing, at first fashioning such plastic items as soap dishes. Within a few years, the business had transitioned to making fiberglass-reinforced parts.
Royal began building composite parts for the aviation industry in the late 1950s.