NASA officials said Monday they’re hoping a software update will resolve a technical glitch that delayed this week’s planned historic flight of a small helicopter on Mars, but the fix will take some time and officials said a new flight date will hopefully be set next week.
The 4-pound helicopter named Ingenuity was designed and built at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It was set to make its historic first flight — the first ever on another world — on Sunday, but the mission was delayed due to a problem that occurred during a test spin of its rotors.
“During the high-speed spin test, the sequence ended early during the transition from `preflight’ to `flight’ mode,” mission managers tweeted Saturday. “The helicopter is safe & healthy. The team is diagnosing the issue.”
On Monday, the helicopter management team “identified a software solution” for the problem, according to NASA.
“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,” according to a NASA blog post. “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.”
The software update was being tested at JPL on Tuesday and will again on Wednesday. NASA officials said validating the software and then uplinking it to the helicopter will take some time. After it is completed, another high-speed spin test will be conducted on the rotors. If the test is successful, then scheduling will begin for the flight attempt.
“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,” according to NASA. “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.”
The first flight of the helicopter, which “continues to be health on the surface of mars,” is expected to be a short one. The helicopter is expected to lift off to a height of about 10 feet, where it will hover for 30 seconds and then return to the planet’s surface.
Ingenuity has no scientific instrumentation aboard. It is strictly a demonstration mission to determine the feasibility of operating such a craft on other planets.
The helicopter was carried to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which will train its cameras on Ingenuity to record the flight when it occurs.
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