NASASpaceFlight.com Forum

Robotic Spacecraft (Astronomy, Planetary, Earth, Solar/Heliophysics) => Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Mars 2020 Rover Section => Topic started by: Star One on 03/16/2018 07:40 PM

Title: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Star One on 03/16/2018 07:40 PM
Really hope this novel piece of equipment does accompany the rover to Mars.

Quote
Testing of a lightweight robotic helicopter designed to fly in the alien atmosphere of Mars has produced encouraging results in recent months, and NASA officials expect to decide soon whether the aerial drone will accompany the agency’s next rover to the red planet set for liftoff in 2020.

Quote
Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program at the agency’s headquarters, said last month that an engineering model of the helicopter has completed 86 minutes of flying time in a test chamber configured to simulate the Martian atmosphere.

“The system has been built, it’s been ground tested, and then we put it into a chamber that was backfilled at Mars atmosphere (conditions),” Watzin said Feb. 20 in a presentation to the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, a panel of scientists that assists NASA in planning Mars missions. “Some parts were removed from the helicopter to compensate for the 1g (gravity) field to get the proper relationship of mass and acceleration at Mars, and we did controlled takeoffs, slewing, translations, hovers and controlled landings in the chamber. We’ve done that multiple times.”

https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/03/15/nasa-to-decide-soon-whether-flying-drone-will-launch-with-mars-2020-rover/
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 03/16/2018 07:44 PM
Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Jim on 03/16/2018 08:00 PM
Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 03/16/2018 08:02 PM
Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.

Why doesn't a parachute work?
Aeroshell, parachute, ditch the aeroshell, wait till steady state speed, pop out the rotors, land.

It of course does not work at all for something the size of Mars 2020.
However, for a kilogram helicopter, that is already designed to fly in the martian atmosphere, taking most of the velocity off with the parachute would seem quite adequate.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Jim on 03/16/2018 08:06 PM
Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.

Why doesn't a parachute work?
Aeroshell, parachute, ditch the aeroshell, wait till steady state speed, pop out the rotors, land.

yeah right.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: TrevorMonty on 03/16/2018 08:23 PM
I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: redliox on 03/20/2018 04:09 PM
I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.

It would certainly be useful in scouting and surveying, especially before humans were to land at a site.  And yeah, for a 'dull' stationary mission like InSight or Phoenix it would add useful PR flare and context about the surrounding terrain; akin to Sojourner for Pathfinder but more functional and longer range.

We've been waiting on the decisions for both the landing site and the helicopter for a while.  This drone probably has a 50/50 chance.  Knowing budgets, I will play the pessimist and say it probably will get cut in the end.  However, the enhanced (i.e. zoom) cameras for the 2020 rover had been offered to Curiosity/MSL before but couldn't be added; likewise if the helicopter drone can't fly with 2020 we could see it on either the next probe or with humans.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: yg1968 on 05/06/2018 06:10 PM
Another article on the same topic:
http://spacenews.com/decision-expected-soon-on-adding-helicopter-to-mars-2020/
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Dalhousie on 05/06/2018 10:53 PM
I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.

It would certainly be useful in scouting and surveying, especially before humans were to land at a site.  And yeah, for a 'dull' stationary mission like InSight or Phoenix it would add useful PR flare and context about the surrounding terrain; akin to Sojourner for Pathfinder but more functional and longer range.


Longer range certainly, but more functional?  Unlikely. Sojourner carried multiple cameras and an APX.  the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball.
Title: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Star One on 05/07/2018 09:22 AM
Another article on the same topic:
http://spacenews.com/decision-expected-soon-on-adding-helicopter-to-mars-2020/

It’s that kind of overly conservative attitude expressed in that article when it comes to trying out new technology that allows a gap for more go getting companies to fill in the exploitation of Mars.

I understand why he’s against it just can’t believe they would actually include it if it was that detrimental to the science mission.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: AegeanBlue on 05/07/2018 10:11 PM
I am under the impression that if the drone does go through, it will reduce the risk for Dragonfly.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: ccdengr on 05/07/2018 10:34 PM
I am under the impression that if the drone does go through, it will reduce the risk for Dragonfly.
The two have nothing much to do with each other except both being rotorcraft -- different designers, different configuration, different gravity, different atmospheric density and composition.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: AegeanBlue on 05/08/2018 11:26 PM
The Europa Lander builds on Mars heritage: rather than design from a clean sheet they take the EDL heritage of the rovers and landers. If you look at the presentation on the Mars HSF landers and the Phobos/Deimos landers, they will reduce risk by using the same cage that Phobos/Deimos landers have and adopt for Mars entry. Similarly, lessons from the Mars helicopter get used for Dragonfly. It is a very different atmospheres and gravities, but the needs of autonomy and cold operation are pretty similar. Not to mention the sterilization requirements. Magellan was Voyager 3, down to lots of hardware being Voyager spares. Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: ccdengr on 05/09/2018 03:16 AM
Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Dalhousie on 05/09/2018 03:25 AM
Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.

It will have a useful function so not a toy
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Phil Stooke on 05/09/2018 03:52 AM
" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."

Yes... but a flying eyeball that can look at stuff.  For instance, one idea is to scout ahead for a few hundred meters to check out the future drive path.  Now, most often, the rover is only commanded to drive as far as its most recent stereo imaging reaches, occasionally adding more distance just using hazard avoidance software.  But the longer view might permit longer drives, great for getting from study area 1 to study area 2 as fast as possible.  This is only an experimental version of the concept, to be used a few times to see if it can be made to work effectively.  If it works well, an enhanced version might be used much more on future missions, including human missions.  So that's quite the eyeball.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Dalhousie on 05/10/2018 04:41 AM
" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."

Yes... but a flying eyeball that can look at stuff.  For instance, one idea is to scout ahead for a few hundred meters to check out the future drive path.  Now, most often, the rover is only commanded to drive as far as its most recent stereo imaging reaches, occasionally adding more distance just using hazard avoidance software.  But the longer view might permit longer drives, great for getting from study area 1 to study area 2 as fast as possible.  This is only an experimental version of the concept, to be used a few times to see if it can be made to work effectively.  If it works well, an enhanced version might be used much more on future missions, including human missions.  So that's quite the eyeball.

I've used flying eyeballs in  a range of contexts and they can be very useful. 
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 05/10/2018 10:34 AM
" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."
In addition to other things mentioned, the 'eyeball' has to land.
When it lands, you can pretty much for free get 0.1mm or so footage of what's under the legs, blown somewhat clear by a brief wind of 200MPH or so.

Adding a multispectral imager with some filters adds another several grams.
Off-the-shelf XRF instruments are 1.5kg (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NEW-EDX-P3000-XRF-alloy-analyzer-X-Ray-Spectrometer-PRECIOUS-METALS-MINING-SOIL/311584455316), it seems at least plausible that a 'heavy' version of this helicopter could carry the stripped down unshielded sensing head without much change. (one was on Sojourner).
Hitting the surface with a several watt diode LASER pulse and seeing what happens can also be very light.

(the helicopter has some 500g of margin, which would make it considerably less able to fly well, but still able to fly).

A simple sample collection mechanism - a reel of tacky tape running over one leg, for example might be an interesting option.

Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/10/2018 04:29 PM
" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."
In addition to other things mentioned, the 'eyeball' has to land.
When it lands, you can pretty much for free get 0.1mm or so footage of what's under the legs, blown somewhat clear by a brief wind of 200MPH or so.

Adding a multispectral imager with some filters adds another several grams.
Off-the-shelf XRF instruments are 1.5kg (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NEW-EDX-P3000-XRF-alloy-analyzer-X-Ray-Spectrometer-PRECIOUS-METALS-MINING-SOIL/311584455316), it seems at least plausible that a 'heavy' version of this helicopter could carry the stripped down unshielded sensing head without much change. (one was on Sojourner).
Hitting the surface with a several watt diode LASER pulse and seeing what happens can also be very light.

(the helicopter has some 500g of margin, which would make it considerably less able to fly well, but still able to fly).

A simple sample collection mechanism - a reel of tacky tape running over one leg, for example might be an interesting option.
For version 1.0 best to keep it simple and lite as possible. All it needs to do is be eyes for rover.

Field tests JPL did on earth demostrated a dramatic increase in distance a rover could travel with a drone scouting the terrain.

Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: AegeanBlue on 05/10/2018 06:41 PM
Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.


When I was doing my PhD (in GIS and Remote Sensing, I am on the Earth Observation side) we had a high level person come from Goddard to give us a lecture on Landsat 8. Since Curiosity had just landed he told us, while we were waiting for the amphitheater to finish with the previous class, that he was on the review committee of the Skycrane. When he first read about the Skycrane, his first reaction was, "you got to be kidding me". They took though the time and explained how it is supposed to work, and he signed off.

Just because you do not see something, it doesn't mean it's not there
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 05/10/2018 10:00 PM
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.
About a third of the mass is battery, versus perhaps a sixth (making assumptions on heating, and assuming the mentioned battery mass is used for Dragonfly).

Blade profile, diameter, RPM, arrangement are remarkably similar. (1m or so, 1500/4000RPM, very fat 2-blade 'paddle' blades)

It's just the 500* density of the Dragonflys atmosphere and the lower gravity makes for much higher effective thrust, as well as much, much higher efficiency.
(4g/W vs 170g/W) (earth weights)

The prop manufacturing is much, much more challenging for JPLs.
Motor efficiency will be slightly higher in the cold.
In many ways, dragonfly is easier.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: hop on 05/11/2018 04:44 AM
In many ways, dragonfly is easier.
Not just easier than Mars, much easier (in performance terms) than Earth.  So what does testing on Mars get you that testing on Earth with enforced communication delays wouldn't?
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: AegeanBlue on 05/11/2018 08:07 AM
The cold. Going from one unknown location to another. Processing pipeline for the data.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: hop on 05/11/2018 09:13 PM
The cold.
Hard to see that being very relevant, the vehicle designs and thermal environments are wildly different
Mars (at 2020 landing sites): ~190-280K, 0.007-0.009 bar
Titan: ~90K, 1.5 bar
Quote
Going from one unknown location to another. Processing pipeline for the data.
Cannot be done on Earth because...? One can certainly arrange for locations that are unknown to the vehicle and operators.

There is undoubtedly some value from lessons learned in real operations, but the direct applicability of the Mars drone to Dragonfly seems pretty limited.

edit:
To clear the Mars drone is cool and (IMO) worthwhile in it's own right, and I'm glad it got the go. I just don't buy that it's particularly relevant to Titan.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/11/2018 09:14 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOMQOqKRWjU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOMQOqKRWjU)
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/11/2018 09:17 PM
Quote
May 11, 2018
RELEASE 18-035

Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission

NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars.

The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”

U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.

“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”

Started in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.

“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”

The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights. But before the helicopter can fly at Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.

“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up,” said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. “To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.”

Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

“We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time,” said Aung. “Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own.”

The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.

As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”

Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. Scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

For more information about NASA’s Mars missions, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

-end-

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/mars-helicopter-to-fly-on-nasa-s-next-red-planet-rover-mission
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/11/2018 09:19 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOMQOqKRWjU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOMQOqKRWjU)
Animated video of drone in operation on Mars.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Blackstar on 05/11/2018 09:44 PM
I've attended a number of talks and briefings about the helicopter and about Mars 2020. A few points:

-Just about everybody involved believes that the risk of the helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover is almost nonexistent.

-The helicopter will, however, require time to operate it. That time cuts into the science mission time. There are some people who were very opposed to it because of that. Mars 2020 is a very ambitious mission with a lot to accomplish, so cutting into science time is a risk to the mission objectives.

-This helicopter is only a test. It will not have any real science value.

-There are no plans to fly a helicopter on any future mission. So it might not be demonstrating anything of value.


Personally, I am sympathetic to the argument that the helicopter poses a risk to the science operations of the rover. However, I also think that there is tremendous PR value to doing something like this. There is a perception that NASA is not innovative and does not take risks (which I think is bogus--Curiosity, JWST, and New Horizons are all great examples of NASA being innovative and taking risks). This kind of activity will generate a lot of interest and excitement for NASA, and I think that can be valuable to attracting good talent to the agency and its programs.

Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 05/12/2018 12:07 AM
I've attended a number of talks and briefings about the helicopter and about Mars 2020. A few points:

<snip>
-The helicopter will, however, require time to operate it. That time cuts into the science mission time. There are some people who were very opposed to it because of that. Mars 2020 is a very ambitious mission with a lot to accomplish, so cutting into science time is a risk to the mission objectives.

-This helicopter is only a test. It will not have any real science value.

<snip>
Personally, I am sympathetic to the argument that the helicopter poses a risk to the science operations of the rover. However, I also think that there is tremendous PR value to doing something like this.
<snip>

Has anyone in the Mars 2020/Mars Helicopter programs budgeted for a helicopter science/ops team, to work in coordination with the "main" project team?

Such an exercise, and executing on the findings, could alleviate both potential issues, and make the helicopter an integral part of the mission ops and science?

Successfully accomplished, such an effort could alleviate this concern:
-There are no plans to fly a helicopter on any future mission. So it might not be demonstrating anything of value.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Blackstar on 05/12/2018 02:14 AM
Has anyone in the Mars 2020/Mars Helicopter programs budgeted for a helicopter science/ops team, to work in coordination with the "main" project team?

Such an exercise, and executing on the findings, could alleviate both potential issues, and make the helicopter an integral part of the mission ops and science?

The helicopter is not science.

Repeat three times.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: redliox on 05/12/2018 02:24 AM
Has anyone in the Mars 2020/Mars Helicopter programs budgeted for a helicopter science/ops team, to work in coordination with the "main" project team?

Such an exercise, and executing on the findings, could alleviate both potential issues, and make the helicopter an integral part of the mission ops and science?

The helicopter is not science.

Repeat three times.

Engineering is a science technically  ;)

But this thing is now officially part of Mars 2020?
Title: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Star One on 05/12/2018 07:36 AM
I've attended a number of talks and briefings about the helicopter and about Mars 2020. A few points:

-Just about everybody involved believes that the risk of the helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover is almost nonexistent.

-The helicopter will, however, require time to operate it. That time cuts into the science mission time. There are some people who were very opposed to it because of that. Mars 2020 is a very ambitious mission with a lot to accomplish, so cutting into science time is a risk to the mission objectives.

-This helicopter is only a test. It will not have any real science value.

-There are no plans to fly a helicopter on any future mission. So it might not be demonstrating anything of value.


Personally, I am sympathetic to the argument that the helicopter poses a risk to the science operations of the rover. However, I also think that there is tremendous PR value to doing something like this. There is a perception that NASA is not innovative and does not take risks (which I think is bogus--Curiosity, JWST, and New Horizons are all great examples of NASA being innovative and taking risks). This kind of activity will generate a lot of interest and excitement for NASA, and I think that can be valuable to attracting good talent to the agency and its programs.

Well I suppose technically Dragonfly is not a helicopter.

Hopefully if this is a successful test mission it might change a few minds about including such devices on other projects.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 05/12/2018 10:03 AM
Hopefully if this is a successful test mission it might change a few minds about including such devices on other projects.
For non-NASA missions, this would directly demonstrate, in a form that costs thousands each, and weighs a kilo, scouting craft that do not require the development of advanced wheeled vehicles.

It has an enormous synergy with high bandwidth comms, and has enough mass margin for a small science sensor per craft.
There is less need for a full sensor suite if you have fifty, with ten different types of sensor.

It doesn't even need to be soft-landed, being thrown out at 40m/s and 1km up would be just fine.
If in fact SpaceX makes it to Mars in 2022, a thousand of these might be a very useful addition - mapping the surrounding 10km to 5mm hyperspectrally, even without any sensors other than optical.
(600m or so hops, verify automatically picked landing sites)



Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Blackstar on 05/12/2018 03:42 PM
Engineering is a science technically  ;)

But this thing is now officially part of Mars 2020?

It is.

But Mars 2020's primary mission is collecting high quality samples for return to Earth. That goal is very high priority, and nothing will be allowed to interfere with it. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with it.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: matthewkantar on 05/12/2018 05:02 PM
Wouldn't it make sense to put an eight dollar test tube rack on the rover and keep all of the samples in the same place? It seems insane to have to send another rover to pick up the samples the first rover spread all over the place. Does this approach really make sense?

It only makes sense to me as a wink-and-nudge concession to the sample return lobby.

Matthew
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: geza on 05/12/2018 05:39 PM
How will the helicpoter follow the rover? If I understand correctly, the heli can communicate only with the rover. If the distance becomes too large, the helicopter cannot be commanded. Therefore, whneever the rover is going to move, should it instruct first the helicopter to fly to the next location? What is the distance it can fly in one go relative to the daily movement of the rover?
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Hungry4info3 on 05/12/2018 06:23 PM
From the press release.
Quote
The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.

This is probably not going to be a device that stays with the rover throughout its mission. It will probably be deployed early, tested for a month, and then who knows after that. This should be thought of more as a technology demonstration than a full-fledged escort mission.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Hungry4info3 on 05/12/2018 06:32 PM
Wouldn't it make sense to put an eight dollar test tube rack on the rover and keep all of the samples in the same place? It seems insane to have to send another rover to pick up the samples the first rover spread all over the place. Does this approach really make sense?

You can afford to go for those interesting, perhaps harder to reach samples if you've already got some already-collected samples somewhere other than the rover, so if the rover breaks in some weird spot (perhaps because the ground is weird or the sampling arm is blocking access to the sample cache), the follow-on mission will still be able to get the previous samples, rather than having all your eggs in one inaccessible basket. If you keep all the samples with the rover, as you collect samples, you become more discouraged from going for those more riskier locations as the mission goes on (a sort of a reversal of the risk-acceptance trend seen in other missions).

Place a sample on the ground after you've acquired it, and you've achieved some sense of mission-success. Keep them with you and you're constantly flirting with mission-failure.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Star One on 05/12/2018 06:56 PM
Engineering is a science technically  ;)

But this thing is now officially part of Mars 2020?

It is.

But Mars 2020's primary mission is collecting high quality samples for return to Earth. That goal is very high priority, and nothing will be allowed to interfere with it. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with it.

Samples that are far more likely to be retrieved by others than NASA. But I digress.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Comga on 05/12/2018 07:54 PM
Quote
Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

This seems almost vandal like in its intrusiveness to the mission. No wonder the science team views it as a burden.

The RTG powered rovers are huge.  Why can't the helicopter be placed on top somewhere to charge its batteries and be checked out while the rover goes about its primary business.  Then it could be put on the ground and left behind as the rover moves on, executing its traverse while getting a safe separation distance.  If the helicopter can't take off and fly to the rover then the engineering test.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: geza on 05/12/2018 08:11 PM
From the press release.
Quote
The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.

This is probably not going to be a device that stays with the rover throughout its mission. It will probably be deployed early, tested for a month, and then who knows after that. This should be thought of more as a technology demonstration than a full-fledged escort mission.

Yes, but I am not sure how to interpret this. During that month the rover will not go anywhere, because the helicopter needs the babying? If so, I understand the worry of the scientists...
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 05/12/2018 08:41 PM
The RTG powered rovers are huge.  Why can't the helicopter be placed on top somewhere to charge its batteries and be checked out while the rover goes about its primary business.  Then it could be put on the ground and left behind as the rover moves on, executing its traverse while getting a safe separation distance.  If the helicopter can't take off and fly to the rover then the engineering test.
The solar panel in this case is not a major issue.
The motor needs a couple of minutes times 200W per day, or 6Wh/day, and perhaps another 10Wh for heating the electronics box at night.
This is 0.75watt input power average, meaning a panel needs to be around 10-20cm in diameter, given around 20W average per m^2 of panel on Mars.

(though I would argue that putting the panels on the sides probably makes more sense)

More power would be great - but it does not unfortunately enable much longer flights, as the higher power needs a larger battery, and larger motor, ...

Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: geza on 05/12/2018 09:05 PM
So, few minutes of flight time per day. What is the maximal flight distance per day? It determines the maximal travel distance of the rover per day. I like the idea of the helicopter...
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: speedevil on 05/12/2018 09:18 PM
So, few minutes of flight time per day. What is the maximal flight distance per day? It determines the maximal travel distance of the rover per day. I like the idea of the helicopter...
The baseline distance is a bit under a kilometer, so if you're returning every day, 300m out.
Likely traverses for near-term rovers are in the hundred meter a day tops category.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: hop on 05/12/2018 10:32 PM
Yes, but I am not sure how to interpret this. During that month the rover will not go anywhere, because the helicopter needs the babying? If so, I understand the worry of the scientists...
Based on past experience the rover probably won't go very far in the first 30 days regardless of the helicopter. There will be deployments and checkout, then some science on the nearest interesting targets.

By sol 30, Curiosity had driven 110 meters, most in the immediately preceding sols. My impression is the 2020 team has worked hard to streamline things relatively to Curiosity, but the early mission will almost certainly still be slow.

That said, it is reasonable to expect if the helicopter has a "funny" it could affect rover operations. It's easy to say something is an expendable tech demo, less so to write it off at the first hiccup.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: Nibb31 on 05/13/2018 12:26 AM
I think one of the reasons rovers go slow in the early mission phase is to maximize science return before taking any risks. The rover could theoretically break down at any time, so you want to get as much science data back from it in case it does, even if that means remaining stationary.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: catdlr on 05/13/2018 05:00 AM
Engineering is a science technically  ;)

But this thing is now officially part of Mars 2020?

It is.

But Mars 2020's primary mission is collecting high quality samples for return to Earth. That goal is very high priority, and nothing will be allowed to interfere with it. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with it.

Time to rename this thread as NASA has decided to now.
Title: Re: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Post by: redliox on 05/13/2018 05:14 AM
Time to rename this thread as NASA has decided to now.

Put up a fresh thread here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=45676.0