NASA Dryden Hosts Radar Tests for Next Mars Landing

June 14, 2010
This test of the radar system to be used during the August 2012 descent and landing of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity mounted an engineering test model of the radar system onto the nose of a helicopter. Image Credit: NASA

( -- Engineers with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are running diverse trials with a test version of the radar system that will enable NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission to put the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface in August 2012.

One set of tests conducted over a desert lakebed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in May 2010 used flights with a helicopter simulating specific descent paths anticipated for Martian sites.

During the final stage of descent, NASA's Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar.

The testing at Dryden included lowering a rover mockup on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect the radar's descent-speed determinations by the radar. The helicopter carried the test radar on a special nose-mounted gimbal.

Helicopter-flown testing has also been conducted at other desert locations for experience in an assortment of terrains. Later in 2010, the team plans to test the higher-altitude, higher-velocity part of Curiosity's radar-aided by flying the test radar on dives by an F/A-18 jet from Dryden.

Explore further: Mars echo from Italian radar reported

Related Stories

Mars echo from Italian radar reported

September 19, 2006

Italian and U.S. space agency officials say they've received the first signals from an Italian radar orbiting Mars to search for water or ice on the planet.

San Diego Team Delivers Camera for Next Mars Rover

April 7, 2010

( -- Malin Space Science Systems Inc., San Diego, has delivered the two cameras for the Mast Camera instrument that will be the science-imaging workhorse of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, to be launched ...

Recommended for you

Orbiter views Mars surface fractures

October 8, 2015

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils. These images provide information about erosion and ...

NASA measuring the pulsating aurora

October 7, 2015

Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.