NASA tests the blades of the successor of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA released a video showing the tests of a pair of rotor blades of a next-generation Martian helicopter at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the Space Agency. This test took place on September 15, 2023, the day before the record 59th flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

Taking into account the success of Ingenuity, NASA plans to use helicopter drones in future Mars missions, which will have a more reliable design than their predecessor, which has already made 66 successful flights. This new dual-rotor system was recently tested at JPL and has carbon fibre blades with a diameter of more than 1.27 metres, which is 10 cm longer than Ingenuity. 

The rotor blades were tested in a JPL’s vacuum chamber, which simulates conditions on Mars, including extreme temperatures and solar radiation. For three weeks, the rotors were rotated at high speeds to test their strength. The video of the tests on September 15 shows how the blades rotate at a speed of Mach 0.95, which is almost equal to the speed of sound.

This is an important step to improve helicopter technology on Mars. The day after the tests, Ingenuity made its 59th flight, reaching a height of 20 metres, which was a record at the time. However, on October 5, 2023, this record was broken when the helicopter rose to a height of 24 metres.

Animation of NASA’s Ingenuity flight on Mars

Ingenuity landed on Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover in February 2021. Initially, it was planned that it would perform only five flights to demonstrate the capabilities of flights in the atmosphere of the Red Planet. However, during a long mission, the helicopter withstood almost 2 hours in the Martian air, developed a record speed, and flew only 14.5 km.

Ingenuity, as a test vehicle, has significantly exceeded its initial operational life, demonstrating NASA’s ability to conduct interplanetary flight tests of equipment in simulated and real conditions. This demonstrates humanity’s progress in space exploration and underscores the space agency’s determination to innovate in the future.

Earlier, we reported on how the Mars Sample Return mission was paused due to lack of funds.

According to Space

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