On January 4, 2004, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) named Spirit, ended its 300 million-mile journey from Earth with a successful landing on the surface of Mars. ILC Dover, Inc. of Frederica, Delaware was NASA's prime contractor for the airbag subsystem and the Rover drive-off ramps (also a fabric component) that helped make the landing and Rover egress a success. The concept of a cushioned landing on Mars using ILC airbags was first successfully demonstrated on the NASA Pathfinder mission in 1997. The MER configuration of using this fabric ramp is a change from the Pathfinder ramp. These landings demonstrate the airbag technology's ability to accommodate the harsh landing conditions on rough Martian terrain. This technology also benefits the scientific mission objectives by allowing more mass for the science instruments through minimizing the mass used for the critical, but one-time use, landing system.
"We are excited about the success of the MER program and proud of our heritage in supporting international space efforts since the Apollo moon landing. ILC is one of only a handful of companies in the world that can say its products have performed their intended missions successfully on the surfaces of the moon and Mars," said ILC's president, William J. Wallach. "ILC Dover is currently applying these same space age technologies to new applications and industries," said Wallach.
ILC is developing innovative personal protective hoods for government, industry, and consumer markets; systems for the storage and processing of powders and liquids in the pharma/biopharm industry; and a therapeutic warming device that helps relieve pain and speed up the recovery of soft-tissue injuries in conjunction with SeliCor, an Austin, TX-based company.