Drive systems for space

Ready for the new space age.

maxon drive systems are among the most flown actuators in Martian research, and in space they power some of the most complex robotic systems that humans have ever built. 

Optimized service for space applications.

To support customers in the space industry, maxon created a dedicated space group in 2020. The maxon SpaceLab offers optimized services for space applications. A space catalog introduces a selection of high-reliability solutions for demanding applications in space environments, with an emphasis on products with space heritage.

With the SpaceLab, maxon has dedicated resources to support our space customers.

The Spacelab is part of the R&D group and specializes in projects that have the following features and backgrounds:

Commercial “new space” applications

Space science missions

Extreme environments (Cryogenic and ultra-high temperature, vacuum, radiation, high mechanical shock and vibration)

Size scale up/down from available designs

These applications can contain high-quality requirements, high technical complexity, small volumes (one shot, micro and small series), and complex test campaigns, but are not limited to these.

Space applications.

maxon's actuators have been used in numerous space agency funded missions worldwide and can be found on commercial satellites, rovers, science spacecraft, and the ISS. Actuators from maxon’s space catalog can be modified as needed to meet the requirements of each customer mission, which include NASA, ESA, JAXA and many private companies in the commercial and new space market. maxon can handle one shot high-end scientific space missions, small volume and high quality commercial space applications and up to high quantity new space satellite constellations.
List of applications where you can find maxon’s actuators:

Deployment and Rotary Mechanisms

Reaction Wheels

Gimbal Drives

Pump and Valve Actuation

Release and Safety Mechanisms

Space Robotics

Rover Wheel Drive and Steering

Launcher Mechanisms

And much more

Developed for the most demanding space missions.

In addition to reliable standard components, the SpaceLab portfolio also includes solutions according to highly specific customer specifications. These development-intensive applications are designed, tested and produced in-house by maxon in defined process sequences. Our space experts assist in defining the project scope considering technology, cost and time, accompanied from the specification phase to ramp-up and ensure the most reliable product support in the space industry

Examples of special designs:

Fully customized actuators

Joint actuators

Special interfaces (e.g. flanges with inserts)

Size scale up/down from available designs

Extended rotor inertia for reaction wheels

Optimized weight (e.g. stepped gearboxes)

When there is no room for error.

Whether it’s a flagship historic Mars mission or a commercial space shuttle, the reliability of individual components is of immense importance in all space applications. Since maxon systems drive many mission-critical components whose failure would be unacceptable, we also offer electrically redundant motors to safeguard the entire mission. maxon SpaceLab offers a range of solutions to suit different redundancy requirements.


Dedicated space specialists.

We have over 25 years of experience and a proven track record in space missions. Using this experience, the maxon SpaceLab engineers experts have developed compiled a dedicated range of standard components that have been modified in terms of materials, processing, and testing. 

Based on proven maxon`s industrial heritage, these products have been qualified for space applications. We can initially provide lower cost industrial variants for prototypes and functional samples. As a result, our customers benefit from a significantly shorter development phase and economical large-scale production. This helps reduce costs for commercial rocket or satellite launches. 


Our space product recommendations.

Brushless motors (EC)

EC 20 flat / EC 32 flat / EC 45 flat / EC-4pole 22 / EC-4pole 30 / EC 13 / EC 40 L

maxon flat motors from automated manufacturing are especially suitable for installation in confined spaces. Designed as internal and external rotors, they achieve speeds of up to 20,000 rpm. Available with Hall sensors, sensorless, or frameless. 
With their special winding technology and 4-pole magnets, the EC-4pole drives deliver the highest power per unit of volume and weight. They have low cogging torque, high efficiency, and excellent controller dynamics.

The extremely long service life offered by our electronically commutated EC motors can be exploited particularly well using preloaded ball bearings. They have excellent torque characteristics, high power, and a wide speed range.   

  • Reduced quantity of adhesives selected for compatibility with the space environment, all stainless steel, laser welded connections.
  • Modified for shock, vibration, radiation resistance, and low outgassing operation in vacuum at extreme temperatures.

Brushed motors (DC)

DCX 10 / DCX 14 / DCX 22 / DCX 32 / DCX 35

maxon DCX motors feature unrivaled torque density and smooth running. Needing only to be connected to a battery to operate, they save the expense and mass/volume cost of motor control electronics. The robust design and ironless rotor make them a dynamic drive for almost all applications. Available with vacuum compatible graphite or precious metal brushes, ball bearings, and other optional components.

  • Reduced quantity of adhesives selected for compatibility with the space environment, all stainless steel, laser welded connections.
  • Modified for shock, vibration, radiation resistance, and low outgassing operation in vacuum at extreme temperatures.



GP 10 / GPX UP14 / GPX 22 UP / GPX 32 UP / GPX 42 UP 

Precision spur gear wheel and planetary gearheads are designed specifically for our motors and are designed directly by maxon. The motor pinion is the input gear of the first gear stage and is rigidly connected to the motor shaft.

GPX gearheads offer high power transmission in a compact envelope. The modular design and the scaled stages provide the basis for customized solutions. They space versions offer planet and sun gear cage modules for each gear stage, in order to provide ultimate reliability.

  • Adhesive free, all stainless steel.
  • Laser welded and cold formed connections.
  • Modified for shock, vibration and low outgassing operation in vacuum at extreme temperatures.


ENC 13 / MR Type M

Robust sensors deliver high accuracy and signal resolution. Because of resonance, these are mainly mounted on motors with a continuous shaft. These devices have to be fitted to the motors at maxon, as the installation process is fine-tuned to the corresponding motor.

  • Counts per turn: 2CPT (8 Quad-CPT)/32CPT (128 Quad-CPT).
  • Redundant 2-channel sensor – version qualified for use in space, development from MER (Spirit and Opportunity Martian rover) missions..
  • Fully electrically redundant (two electrically isolated circuits on one board) Vibration- and shock-resistant housing.



AB 22 / AB 32

maxon offers both passive detent brakes and active electro-mechnical brakes for space projects. The brakes can be installed as a module in various drive combinations and prevent the motor from rotating against external loads  when the motor is unpowered. They can also be used as emergency stop mechanisms in the case of a power failure. 

  • 22 mm/32 mm active permanent magnet brake.
  • Modified for high vibration and shock loads.

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Documentation Package.

Our documentation packages offers a pre-defined package for customers who don’t already have defined project specifications for additional quality control or documentation. The scope of our documentation extends beyond the usual framework for maxon industrial drive systems and meets the standard for hardware intended for use in space. 

The scope includes:  

Assignment of a project manager for production monitoring and customer support

Creation of production schedules down to component level for production tracking

Interface control drawing (ICD)

Step file for actuator envelope

Data sheet detailing specification for electrical, thermal, and performance parameters and mass

Declared materials list (DML) and declared process list (DPL)

Certificate of Conformance (CoC)

First article inspection (FAI) in accordance with VDA 2.5 or EN 9102

Defined acceptance tests (ATP)

Final assembly of actuator in ISO class 8 clean room


Request a package.

Please contact us for more information, detailed scope, and prices.


Extreme conditions.

Precision drives destined for space are required to demonstrate compatibility with the space environmental conditions. maxon SpaceLab products meet the strictest industry expectations and are tested in our own laboratory with regard to the following factors. 

Extended temperature range

-70°C to +125°C ambient temperature.


High-vacuum atmosphere.


Random vibration and sinusoidal vibration.


In each of the three orthogonal axes.


Operation in any direction and in any gravitational field between 0 and 9.8 ms-².


Operation and storage in a vacuum combined with temperature.


Total ionizing dose (TID) in accordance with ESCC Basic Specification 22900.

Corporate Blog

Success stories

Whether research missions by NASA, telecommunications satellites, or commercial projects by private aerospace companies – many missions from Earth into space have maxon components on board.
Go to the blog
Ingenuity 1500X1000maxon Story

Ingenuity makes history.

Space fans are thrilled: NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed its pioneering flight on Mars. This is the first time in the history of unmanned spaceflight that a device has flown in a controlled manner on another planet – powered by DC motors that were modified for this challenge.
Learn more
Rover_wegmann2maxon Story

How to build an autonomous rover

Computer Vision. Rover. Humans. A not so daily combination.
Learn more
1800x1200_Perservance Rovermaxon Story

Customizations to standard motors for space

Through a combination of standard industrial motors and creative collaboration, technology-forward customizations are made to allow high-precision, long-life motors to make it to Mars and beyond.
Learn more
Go to the blog

Space catalog

Drive Systems for Space Applications.

To support customers in the space industry, maxon created a dedicated space group in 2020. The maxon SpaceLab offers optimized service for space applications. This catalog introduces a selection of high-reliability solutions for demanding applications in space environments, with an emphasis on products with space heritage. 


In search of life in space.

NASA has announced that the next destination in our solar system will be Titan. To advance the search for the chemical building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to collect samples from Saturn’s icy moon. Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and reach Titan in 2034. 

White paper

Mars 2020: From COTS to rover drive.

The white paper “Mars 2020 maxon Commercial Motor Development from Commercial-Off-the-Shelf to Flight-Qualified Motors, Gearboxes, and Detent Brakes: Overcoming Issues and Lessons Learned”  was published in collaboration with JPL as part of the 45th Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium hosted by NASA and presents a summary of the results of drive development for the Mars rover Perseverance. 

This was published in English as part of the 45th Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium hosted by NASA. 

Frequently asked questions

  • How do drive parts qualified for use in space differ from the industry standard?

    Our space-modified drive components have already been used in space projects and therefore have space heritage. All space catalog products have undergone testing in a qualification program with space environmental test levels. The space catalog products have a modified design with respect to the usual aviation specifications, and the products have been made more robust.

  • Are maxon industrial drives also suitable for space applications?

    Our industrial drives are not tested to space standards and the degree of modification is limited. We recommend using the industrial standard products only for Earth based prototyping. The industrial motors have similar electrical parameters to the drive systems suitable for space applications. Note that, we don’t offer specific support for industrial drives used in space applications.

  • Can maxon also provide the required documentation for the new space application?

    Yes, we can offer an additional documentation package for all products from the maxon SpaceLab portfolio.

  • Does maxon have a controller qualified for use in space?

    No, not yet. However, maxon SpaceLab is currently working with partners that offer them. Please contact us for further information.


Any more questions?

Our SpaceLab engineers will be happy to assist you.