Last weekend we mentioned that there had been a problem during a spin test for the NASA Ingenuity helicopter. NASA mission controllers have figured out a way to fix the issue with software, but the failed test did delay the launch schedule for the helicopter. Plans for the helicopter’s first flight are now moving forward after the operations team says the aircraft has now completed a full-speed spin.
The test was completed on April 16, which was the 154th anniversary of Wilbur Wright’s birth. Mission operators say that completing the full-speed spin is an important milestone on the path to flight as the team continues to work on the command sequence issue that originally delayed the flight. NASA says the engineering team for the project has been working on two potential solutions for the problem with Ingenuity. The approach that led to the successful spin test today added a few commands to the flight sequence.
NASA says the approach was tested extensively on Earth and Mars and was performed without jeopardizing the safety of the helicopter. The second approach required minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity flight control software. Changing the software is a straightforward fix for a known issue but will take a bit longer to perform and is a modification to software that has remained stable and unchanged for close to two years. NASA says validation and testing took several days, and transferring and loading in the new files will take several more.
NASA plans to offer more information on the future for Ingenuity and a path forward for the first flight in the coming days. NASA has promised an update today, April 17, if a flight date decision is reached. For now, it’s still unclear when Ingenuity might take to the air on Mars for the first time.