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Center Innovation Fund: LaRC CIF

Mars Electric Reusable Flyer

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

One of the main issues with a Mars flight vehicle concept that can be reused and cover long distances for maximum surface data gathering is its ability to take off, hover, transition to forward flight and then land safely and precisely. While other Mars flight vehicle concepts have proposed gliding flight with crash landings or low efficiency hovering flight with very little ground coverage, the proposed concept will combine hovering and fast forward flight capability into a single efficient aircraft that can be recharged and reused many times. The extremely low surface pressure on Mars requires new low-Reynolds number, low-density aerodynamics combined with a light-weight structure with extremely low disc loading and low wing loading. The main objectives in FY2017 are: 1) Perform a high altitude balloon drop model test from approximately 100,000 feet to gather key aerodynamic and controls data such as lift coefficient, drag coefficient, and stability characteristics in a relevant environment. An NASA Flight Opportunity Program award has been granted to the project to perform the high altitude balloon drop in the Spring of 2017.2) Begin the investigation of new fabrication techniques that will enable very low weight airframe and propeller designs. These designs may include laser cut carbon fiber frames and durable surface coverings that can withstand low temperatures and dust abrasion over long periods of time. Full-size airframes will be constructed and flown in a 60 foot diameter low pressure chamber at NASA Langley Research Center. 3) Continue flight research on vision-based autonomous navigation (visual odometry / IMU fusion) with a focus on hovering navigation in a 3-D environment simulating extreme terrain such as lava tubes and canyons. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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Project Duration

Technology Maturity (TRL)

Technology Areas

Target Destination

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