Thermal Design of a Mars Helicopter Technology Demonstration Concept



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48th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration concept for a Mars surface mission. The primary mission objective is to achieve several 90-second flights 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. The helicopter could be powered by a solar array, which stores energy in secondary batteries for flight operations, imaging, communications, and survival heating. The helicopter thermal design is driven by minimizing survival heater energy while maintaining compliance with allowable flight temperatures in a variable thermal environment. This is accomplished by absorbing as much solar energy on the fuselage exterior as possible in the daytime while minimizing heat loss at night. The batteries and electronics are located inside the fuselage and are conductively isolated from supporting structure. A CO2 gas gap between the electronics and the fuselage skin provides additional thermal isolation from temperature extremes and convection heat losses experienced by the fuselage. On non-flight sols, the thermal design meets all temperature requirements and worst case cold survival heater energy requirements. On flight sols, the thermal design meets temperature and survival energy requirements as well as warmup energy requirements for the propulsion motors and servos. Sensitivity cases were analyzed for parametric variation in the convection coefficient, the fuselage optical properties, and time of day for flight. Thermal balance and limited protoflight testing of an engineering development model was also conducted to correlate the analytical thermal model and verify the thermal design. Using test data, several improvements were made to the thermal design to further reduce survival energy.


Tyler Schmidt, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Stefano Cappucci, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Jennifer Miller, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Mark Wagner, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Pradeep Bhandari, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Michael Pauken, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
ICES102: Thermal Control for Planetary and Small Body Surface Missions
The 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA on 08 July 2018 through 12 July 2018.


Mars, helicopter, lander, thermal, survival energy, batteries, aerogel, tvac