The Mars helicopter has a dead sensor in creativity but his team aims to keep flying
The Ingenuity, a small helicopter that went to Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover, was designed to perform a few flight tests after landing on the Red Planet’s Jezero crater in February 2021.
Since then, with 28 flights imaginatively under its belt, the design has far exceeded expectations. However, the situation in Jeziro Crater has changed since the arrival of the craft.
Ingenuity took its first flight in the spring in April 2021 in the Jezero area. Now, winter temperatures, which can drop to minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius) at night, are changing the way creativity works and software keeps vehicles running during the cold season.
With temperatures dropping over the past several weeks, operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California began inventing the idea of going to bed every night as a way to protect their systems from harsh conditions. Nevertheless, dramatic fluctuations in day and night temperatures have put a strain on imaginative elements, and a recent diagnosis reveals a malfunction in the vehicle’s inclinometer, one of which, navigation sensors, mission team members announced on Monday in a status update (opens in a new tab). (June 6).
Inclinometer is responsible for providing imaginative flight software with gravimetric data prior to takeoff. This data allows ingenuity to determine the position of Mars relative to gravity and enables calculation of vehicle roll and pitch before takeoff, explained JPL’s ingenuity by chief pilot Howard Grip in a status update. Without this initial data, the vehicle’s software cannot determine the right direction for creativity during the flight. But Gripp and his colleagues think the redundancy in the helicopter’s sensor array could keep them from inventing.
Redundancy is the name of the game for NASA engineers, although low-life technology demonstrations like ingenuity are considered. The mission team members had imagined a possible inclinometer malfunction in various imaginary situations, so before the rover / helicopter pair arrived on Mars last year, they were ready with a software patch to fix the problem.
In addition to the inclinometer, the helicopter’s navigational sensors include an inertia measurement unit (IMU) for measuring acceleration and angular velocity, a laser rangefinder for measuring altitude, and a camera for taking photos during flight.
Both the inclinometer and the IMU work using an accelerometer to determine the orientation. However, the inclinometer does not work during flight, only during preflight. Since the inclinometer no longer works, the ingenuity team aims to double the accelerometer in Ingenuity’s IMU to collect preflight gravity data, as well as in-flight inertial awareness.
JPL officials have indicated that the software patch will take several sol (Tuesdays) to fully upload, followed by a second round of vehicle diagnostics.
“Apart from additional surprises, we anticipate that creativity will take to the skies for Flight 29 – in the near future – to move south-west to keep us in the persistent communication range,” Gripp wrote in Monday’s update.