Not long ago, we mentioned that NASA ran into a problem when it began to run a test of the Ingenuity Helicopter on the surface of Mars. On April 9, mission controllers were performing a planned high-speed spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. During that test, an issue arose, and NASA previously announced the test flight was delayed until at least April 14. NASA has now confirmed the delay will be longer.
The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue that stopped the test on April 9. Over the weekend, the team considered and tested multiple potential solutions to the issue and decided that minor modification and reinstallation of the flight control software was the best path forward. The software update will modify the process used to boot two flight controllers aboard the helicopter to allow the hardware and software to transition to flight state.
Modifications to the flight software are being independently reviewed and validated today and tomorrow in testbeds at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA points out that while the development of the new software change is straightforward, the process of validating it and completing its link to Ingenuity will take time. A detailed timeline for the rescheduled high-speed spin-up test and the first flight is still in process.
The process of updating the flight control software will follow established procedures for validation with careful and deliberate steps to move the new software through the rover, to the base station, and then to the helicopter. Milestones for the process include diagnosing the issue, developing potential solutions, developing and validating and then uploading the software, loading flight software on flight controllers, and booting Ingenuity on the new flight software.
NASA says once those milestones have been passed, it will prepare Ingenuity for its first flight. NASA is clear that this process will take several Mars days. The best estimate for a new flight date is fluid at this time, but a flight date is expected to be set next week.