Lonza’s hydrazine propellant used aboard Mars Rover

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 at 8:14 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -As the Mars Rover Perseverance landed, the cheers in NASA Control could be heard around the world. But others just as jubilant were employees at Lonza, the local specialty chemical plant which makes hydrazine which is required for the mission.

Plant manager Mark Kern says they’ve been producing hydrazine for more than sixty years.

“Whether it was missions to the moon or satellites in space, or back in the day even launching rockets into space, the Lake Charles plant has been a part of that as the sole producer in the U.S. of hydrazine propellants,” said Kern.

Lonza was formerly Olin, and then Arch Chemical and since 1953 has produced the fuel to power the first Titan rocket developed in the fifties. Kern says the Mars landing was huge for NASA and exciting for Lonza.

“I guess the final descent of the Mars rover onto the red planet’s surface was our hydrazine in those thrusters that you could see firing off as the space crane lowered that rover onto the surface of Mars,” he said.

He says they are pleased to develop whatever blend NASA requires in the specialty chemicals plant.

“Everybody’s interested, everybody’s excited. It’s really a proud moment for us knowing that we were a significant piece of history in the space program,” said Kern.

Kern says the hydrazine made here in the Lake area launched rockets in the 60′s and 70′s, was the fuel on the space shuttle and lunar and mars vehicles, plus countless satellites.

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