Flying 100,000 feet above the Oregon coast yesterday, a new kind of aircraft demonstrated the readiness of robotic airplane technology for Mars exploration.
The MarsFlyer, designed and manufactured by Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Manassas, Va., is a one-half scale prototype of a NASA aircraft that may one day soar over the red planet returning unique science knowledge on Mars' atmosphere, surface, and interior. Today's flight was the first in a series of high-altitude tests confirming the aircraft's ability to deploy its wings and tail, and demonstrate aerodynamic performance.
Led by the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Aurora is part of a team of industry, academia, and national laboratories working for the past three years to prepare robotic aircraft technology for scientific application on Mars.
Attached to a high-altitude balloon, the MarsFlyer began its flight at 10:15 am PDT on September 19, 2002 with its wings and tail folded underneath, simulating its storage position during the trip to Mars. After reaching a height of almost 19 miles, the prototype Mars airplane separated from the balloon at approximately 11:49 am, unfolded, and completed a ninety minute, pre-programmed flight path.
The airplane was controlled throughout its flight by an Athena Technologies GS-111 flight control system, www.athenati.com. The balloon was launched from GSSL, Inc., in Tillamook, Ore., 85 miles west of Portland. The plane returned to the same airport from which it was launched and landed without damage at 1:28 pm.
Mars airplane engineers and scientists said today's test is a tremendous success.
Aurora project manager for the MarsFlyer, Jean-Charles Ledé, said that a preliminary analysis of the flight data shows the deployment sequence went flawlessly and the subsequent flight was smooth and stable matching preflight predictions. "The flight could not have gone better," Ledé added. "The performance matched our models very well."
"Successful flight testing in a Mars-like environment is a critical milestone for this technology," said Dr. Robert Braun, a NASA Langley systems engineer. "The test summarizes several years worth of design, analysis, and ground testing and clearly shows that this science platform is ready for use in a Mars flight project."
Dr. James Head, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and one of several scientists guiding this technology development effort agreed. "On Mars, this airplane's unique vantage point and regional-scale survey capability will provide a wealth of fundamental new scientific information that complements and extends the measurements available from previous Mars missions," stated Head. "The science return will be profound and inspiring."
Dr. Joel S. Levine, a NASA Langley atmospheric scientist, added, "Atmospheric measurements available from this airplane will help us understand the chemical and evolutionary relationships between water in the Mars atmosphere, at the surface, and within the crust."
The NASA Langley team is planning more analysis and testing in 2003 including a second high- altitude test to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic flight on December 17. Flight on Mars could be as early as 2008.
Aurora Flight Sciences is a leading supplier of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) designs, components, and flight services for government, industry, and academia. Operating facilities in West Virginia, Northern Virginia, and California, Aurora specializes in high-altitude UAVs and is a major supplier of composite structures for the Global Hawk air vehicle.
Aurora Flight Sciences
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Devon Crater Team To Test Mars Plane Concepts
Los Angeles - Jul 18, 2002
From July 17 to 24, 2002, The Planetary Society will team up with NASA Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and MicroPilot to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic in simulated Mars exploration.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|