Thermal System and Environmental Testing of the Mars Helicopter
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The Mars Helicopter will be a technology demonstration conducted during the Mars 2020 mission. The primary mission objective is to achieve several 90-second flights demonstrating the feasibility of heavier-than-air flight on Mars and capture visible light images via forward and nadir mounted cameras. These flights could possibly provide reconnaissance data for sampling site selection for other Mars surface missions. A solar array and batteries for flight operations, imaging, communications, and survival heating power the Helicopter. The thermal design is driven by minimizing survival heater energy while maintaining compliance with allowable flight temperatures in a variable thermal environment. Due to the small size of the Helicopter and its complex geometries, along with the fact that it operates with very low power and small margins in the extreme Mars environment, additional care had to be paid while planning thermal tests and designing the thermal system. The first section of the paper describes the evolution of the thermal system of the Mars Helicopter. After the first thermal vacuum test of the engineering model, the thermal team has conducted a partial effect analysis on the thermal design components that had a major impact on the system performance. Several design choices derived by analysis and test have been made to meet the energy allocation and the temperature requirements. These changes included increased gas gaps to reduce gas conduction, low emissivity coatings for internal components, blanket implementation, optimization of wire routing and fine-tuning of surface operations to optimize waste and environment heat recovery. The second part of the paper describes the flight model thermal vacuum test and the subsequent thermal model correlation necessary to confirm the fidelity of the analysis results. The post-correlated thermal model predicts sufficient energy to survive the Martian environment and perform a 90-second flight every third Mars day.