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Sensor on Mars helicopter dies, losing sense of direction in flight

The inclinometer on NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter has stopped working, forcing the Ingenuity team to make a patch to bypass it.

Published Jun 8, 2022 4:22 AM CDT   |   Updated Wed, Jun 29 2022 3:33 PM CDT

The navigation sensor for NASA's Ingenuity helicopter on Mars has recently stopped working.

Sensor on Mars helicopter dies, losing sense of direction in flight 01 |

In a blog post providing the latest update on Ingenuity by Havard Grip, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Grip revealed that Ingenuity's inclinometer navigation sensor is no longer functional. The fault while the Ingenuity team was recommissioning the helicopter over the last several days for more flights.

Ingenuity can keep track of its current position, velocity, and orientation, thanks to a suite of sensors that its onboard flight control system can monitor. These include an inertial measurement unit (IMU) for measuring acceleration, a laser rangefinder for determining altitude, and a navigation camera for photographing the ground below.

The inclinometer comprises two accelerometers, which are used to measure the direction of gravity and, thus, the helicopter's orientation, before Ingenuity spins up its rotors and takes off. The inclinometer itself is not used during actual flight. The Ingenuity team will be uploading a patch to the helicopter to allow Ingenuity to take advantage of the accelerometer in the IMU and bypass the inclinometer.

"Barring additional surprises, we anticipate that Ingenuity will take to the skies for Flight 29 - a repositioning move to the southwest designed to keep us within communication range of Perseverance - in the near future," wrote Grip.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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