NASA is planning the next flight for its Mars helicopter, and according to the Chief Pilot of Ingenuity, the next flight will push boundaries of what NASA scientists know Ingenuity is capable of.
Harvard Grip has written a new NASA status update and has detailed what will be the fourteenth flight for Ingenuity. The title of the status update is "Flying on Mars Is Getting Harder and Harder", and Grip goes on to explain that the atmospheric density of Mars is changing to levels that helicopter wasn't designed to fly in. As a solution to this problem, NASA says it will spin the rotor blades faster than it ever has before as a way of testing Ingenuity's flight capabilities in lower atmospheric densities.
NASA will attempt to increase Ingenuity's rotor speed to 2,800 rpm, which is more than a 10% increase on NASA's previous rpm record of 2,537 rpm. Grip explains that at a rotor speed of 2,800 rpm Ingenuity's blades will be approaching the speed of sound on Mars, which is about 3/4 of what the speed of sound is here on Earth. Grip says, "A rotor speed of 2,800 rpm, in combination with wind and helicopter motion, could cause the tips of the rotor blades to encounter the air at nearly 0.8 Mach - that is, 80% of the speed of sound on Mars."
"(The speed of sound on Mars is somewhat lower than we are used to - about ¾ the speed of sound on Earth.) If the blade tips get sufficiently close to the speed of sound, they will experience a very large increase in aerodynamic drag that would be prohibitive for flight. For Ingenuity's rotor we do not expect to encounter this phenomenon until even higher Mach numbers, but this has never been confirmed in testing on Earth", Grip added.
For more information on Ingenuity or its upcoming flight, check out this link here.
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