Pioneer Circuits has produced over 300 parts being incorporated in the largest Mars Rover named “Curiosity”, supporting NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. Curiosity is the largest robotic vehicle which was developed by JPL: 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, 7 feet tall, six wheeled, the size of a small car, nuclear powered, and weighing 2,000 lbs. Its mission is to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favorable for life, and conditions capable of preserving a record of life. It launched on November 26, 2011 and successfully landed on August 6, 2012.


There are over 32 flex circuit assemblies used on the MSL “Curiosity”. This includes nine assemblies with a unique matte finish used in the mast camera were designed and developed by Pioneer Circuits, Inc. This allows the MSL “Curiosity” to exceed the 600,000 flex cycles used on  he two MER rovers currently on Mars. The extendable forward arm consists of approximately 25 individual cables; several of these required specialized splicing to achieve the overall length requirements for a record breaking length of 35 feet.


Pioneer Circuits’ Contributions to MARS Science Laboratory, MSL “Curiosity”


  • Multilayer Rigid-Flex navigation camera
  • Flex harness allowing the Remote Sensing Mast (RSM) to turn 360º
  • HGAS Flexible circuit allows for 360º rotation and also 0-90º tilt
  • Interconnecting flexible cables extending form inside the body supply power and control to each of the 6 wheels
  • Robotic Arm: Interconnected Flex harness reaching 35 feet
  • Body: Multilayer Rigid PWB’s for
  • Multiple science packages
  • Communication (uplink & downlink)
  • Power distribution
  • Rover guidance control
  • Cables interconnecting scientific & control modules


Prior to “Curiosity” development, there were other Mars exploration missions that have been supported by Pioneer Circuits:


  • Pathfinder (First Mars Rover Sojourner in 1997) – We provided a complex, 30-layer rigid-flex PWB in addition to other rigid-flex circuitry that replaced lots of hard-wiring.
  • MER 03 Spirit & Opportunity (Mars Exploration Rovers in 2003) – We provided a rigid-flex PWB for the cameras (8 total). Rigid PWB’s, all made by Pioneer Circuits, were used for the main computers and other internal electronics. The wheel drives and high-gain antenna also used dynamic flex circuitry for interconnection.
  • Phoenix Lander (Stationary Lander in 2007) – The Pan camera (six-layer, rigid-flex) on boards are the same used as primary cameras for NASA’s Sprit and Opportunity Rovers. A 43”X3/4”, four-layer rigid-flex. PWB is used to drive the drill assembly at the end of the robotic arm.