The safe arrival of the fourth Mars rover, Perseverance, marks the start of the process for launching the first ariel system on the planet.
The Ingenuity helicopter is mounted underneath the body of Perseverance, and is initially powered by the main system. Like the other batteries on the rover, Ingenuity’s six cell lithium ion pack from Sony travelled at 35 percent capacity. These, and the other batteries, will need to be charged and systems all tested in temperatures as low as 90ºC.
This means Ingenuity is set to launch in around 2 weeks time to explore more of the surface with two high resolution cameras.
The previous rovers have only travelled a few kilometres in the years they have been on the planet. The original rover Opportunity has travelled 45km since 2004 and its sibling Spirit travelled 7.7km, while the later Curiosity has travelled 20km. Autonomous operation will allow Perseverance to travel at least 20km around the crater it successfully landed inside.
With 350W of power from the 35Wh pack, Ingenuity will attempt at least one flight in its 30 day window of operation. The first milestone of safely landing having been achieved, the next is to safely deploy to the surface from the underside of the rover and autonomously keep warm through the intensely cold Martian nights. It will then autonomously charge from its solar panel and then establish communication with the Mars Helicopter Base Station on the rover.
If these milestones are met, the team will attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet. If successful, the Ingenuity team will attempt around five more test flights.
The Perseverance rover, with 2mlines of code, uses a substantial amount of European technology, including CCD image sensors from Teledyne for both the SuperCam and Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instruments. A Teledyne semiconductor foundry also built the JPL-designed CCD image sensor that powers SkyCam.
Next: energy system for Mars rover