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06.11.2010
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA Dryden Hosts Radar Tests for Next Mars Landing

Test at NASA Dryden of Radar System for Next Mars Landing
Test at NASA Dryden of Radar System for Next Mars Landing

Engineers with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are running diverse trials with a test version of the radar system that will enable NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission to put the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface in August 2012.

One set of tests conducted over a desert lakebed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in May 2010 used flights with a helicopter simulating specific descent paths anticipated for Martian sites.

During the final stage of descent, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar.

The testing at Dryden included lowering a rover mockup on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect the radar's descent-speed determinations by the radar. The helicopter carried the test radar on a special nose-mounted gimbal.

Helicopter-flown testing has also been conducted at other desert locations for experience in an assortment of terrains. Later in 2010, the team plans to test the higher-altitude, higher-velocity part of Curiosity's radar-aided descent by flying the test radar on dives by an F/A-18 jet from Dryden.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

2010-197

Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

Test at NASA Dryden of Radar System for Next Mars LandingFull Size Image
This test of the radar system to be used during the August 2012 descent and landing of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity mounted an engineering test model of the radar system onto the nose of a helicopter.

During the final stage of descent, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar.

This test on May 12, 2010, at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., included lowering a rover mockup on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect descent-speed determinations by the radar.

Wolfe Air Aviation, of Pasadena, Calif., provided the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter and crew for the tests. The helicopter's Gyron gimbal mounting system, provided by Nettmann Systems International, usually carries aerial video camera equipment for the motion picture industry.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 on a mission to one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, where it will investigate whether conditions have favored development of microbial life and preservation of evidence for life in the rock record.

Image Credit: NASA
Preparing for a Mars Radar TestFull Size Image
In advance of a testing flight at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, members of the test team prepare the engineering model of the Mars Science Laboratory descent radar on the nose gimbal of a helicopter. The yellow disks are the radar's antennae.

From left, the team members pictured are Brian Lataille, of Wolfe Air Aviation, Pasadena, Calif.; Scott Shaffer (inside the helicopter), NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena; Charles Fisher, JPL; Hannah Goldberg (behind Fisher), JPL.

The helicopter carrying the test radar flew pre-planned flight trajectories over Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base to simulate the rover's descent stage carrying the Mars rover Curiosity to the surface of Mars in August 2012.

Wolfe Air provided the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter and crew for the tests. The helicopter's Gyron gimbal mounting system, provided by Nettmann Systems International, usually carries aerial video camera equipment for the motion picture industry.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 on a mission to one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, where it will investigate whether conditions have favored development of microbial life and preservation of evidence for life in the rock record.

Image Credit: NASA
Test Model of Mars Landing RadarFull Size Image
The engineering test model for the radar system that will be used during the next landing on Mars is shown here mounted onto a helicopter's nose gimbal during a May 12, 2010, test at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.

The helicopter carrying the test radar flew pre-planned flight trajectories over Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base to simulate the rover's descent stage carrying the Mars rover Curiosity to the surface of Mars in August 2012.

Wolfe Air Aviation, of Pasadena, Calif., provided the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter and crew for the tests. The helicopter's Gyron gimbal mounting system, provided by Nettmann Systems International, usually carries aerial video camera equipment for the motion picture industry.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 on a mission to one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, where it will investigate whether conditions have favored development of microbial life and preservation of evidence for life in the rock record.

Image Credit: NASA



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