Author Topic: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover  (Read 5640 times)

Offline speedevil

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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.

Offline hop

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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?

Offline AegeanBlue

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The cold. Going from one unknown location to another. Processing pipeline for the data.

Offline hop

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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.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2018 09:21 PM by hop »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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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

Offline TrevorMonty


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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.


Offline zubenelgenubi

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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.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2018 12:09 AM by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline redliox

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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?
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline Star One

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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.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2018 07:37 AM by Star One »

Offline speedevil

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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)




Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline matthewkantar

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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

Offline geza

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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?

Offline Hungry4info3

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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.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2018 06:25 PM by Hungry4info3 »

Offline Hungry4info3

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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.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2018 06:35 PM by Hungry4info3 »

Offline Star One

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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.

Offline Comga

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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.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

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