Local bicycle company helps with Mars rover design - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local bicycle company helps with Mars rover design

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- A piece of Chattanooga is on the planet Mars right now. A local bicycle company helped with the design of the Mars Rover, Curiosity.

The rover touched down on the red planet early Monday.

This is the biggest and most expensive Mars mission to date, ringing in at $2.5 billion, and NASA engineers want to make sure everything goes smoothly.

That is why they called on the designers and developers at the Litespeed bicycle company in Chattanooga.

"There's a bit of mystery there. Especially when you're dealing with space," says Brad DeVaney with Litespeed.

DeVaney leads the product development division at Litespeed in Chattanooga.

In 2007, NASA engineers working on the Mars rover, Curiosity, faced some design challenges with the suspension system.

A few of those engineers happened to be cyclists.

"A couple of those folks said, 'You know, who really fabricates titanium in a specific way for their specific vehicle'," DeVaney says. "And our name came up."

Litespeed stepped up to the galactic challenge of designing the titanium suspension arms for the cosmic rover.

"Those actually attach to the wheels, so they enable the wheels to climb over rocks and into gullies and give it the mobility it needs in that rough terrain," says DeVaney.

It may be hard to believe the same titanium used to make a bicycle frame would be used on a space rover. But titanium is the perfect material because it is very durable, resistant to corrosion and extremely light-weight.

"They needed forms that were going to endure the variations in temperatures, that landing, whether it be soft or abrupt," says DeVaney.

"It was extremely wonderful to hear that other people outside our little company, outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, outside of our industry, thought so highly of what we do here," says CEO and Owner, Peter Hurley.

Hurley says it is an honor to take part in the historical mission and he is flattered NASA engineers relied on his team to help make it happen.

"We're very, very proud of it. In fact all of us signed our names on the product. It's all there sitting on Mars right now, which is wonderful," he says.

Hurley, DeVaney and the rest of the team say they will be keeping in touch with the NASA engineers because getting to Mars was only half the battle.

And just as a side note, there is another Tennessee tie to the Mars space mission. Arnold Airforce Base near Tullahoma helped with the engineering of the heat shield on the rover's capsule.

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