NASA Dryden Hosts Radar Tests for Next Mars Landing

Test at NASA Dryden of radar system for next Mars landing 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. Image Credit: NASA
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June 11, 2010

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.

For more information about the Mars Science Laboratory radar testing at Dryden, see http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/msl_rover_tests.html. More about the Mars Science Laboratory is at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

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

2010-197

Images

Preparing for a Mars radar test

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. Image Credit: NASA

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Test model of Mars landing radar

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. Image Credit: NASA

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