Mars    Helicopter

Work Progresses Toward Ingenuity’s First Flight on Mars
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9) during a planned high-speed spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. Over the weekend, the team considered and tested multiple potential solutions to this issue, concluding that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software is the most robust path forward. This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state. Modifications to the flight software are being independently reviewed and validated today and tomorrow in testbeds at JPL.

While the development of the new software change is straightforward, the process of validating it and completing its uplink to Ingenuity will take some time. A detailed timeline for rescheduling the high-speed spin-up test and first flight is still in process. The process of updating Ingenuity’s flight control software will follow established processes for validation with careful and deliberate steps to move the new software through the rover to the base station and then to the helicopter. Intermediate milestones include:

  • Diagnose the issue and develop potential solutions
  • Develop/validate and upload software
  • Load flight software onto flight controllers
  • Boot Ingenuity on new flight software

Once we have passed these milestones, we will prepare Ingenuity for its first flight, which will take several sols, or Mars days. Our best estimate of a targeted flight date is fluid right now, but we are working toward achieving these milestones and will set a flight date next week. We are confident in the team’s ability to work through this challenge and prepare for Ingenuity’s historic first controlled powered flight on another planet.

Ingenuity continues to be healthy on the surface on Mars. Critical functions such as power, communications, and thermal control are stable. It is not unexpected for a technology demonstration like this to encounter challenges that need to be worked in real time. The high-risk, high-reward approach we have taken to the first powered, controlled flight on another planet allows us to push the performance envelope in ways we could not with a mission designed to last for years such as Perseverance. In the meantime, while the Ingenuity team does its work, Perseverance will continue to do science with its suite of instruments and is gearing up for a test of the MOXIE technology demonstration.



About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by the Mars Helicopter team. The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars.

Dates of planned test activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays, helicopter and/or rover status.

Subscribe via RSS RSS icon


Sign up to Mars Newsletter

Contributors+

  • Bob Balaram
    Chief Engineer for the Mars Helicopter Project, NASA/JPL
  • Håvard Grip
    Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot, NASA/JPL
  • Josh Ravich
    Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Mechanical Engineering Lead, NASA/JPL
  • MiMi Aung
    Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Project Manager, NASA/JPL
  • Teddy Tzanetos
    Ingenuity Team Lead, NASA/JPL

Where is the Mars Helicopter?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

View Map ›