PASADENA, Calif., June 11 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says it is testing a version of the radar system that will be used to land a new rover on Mars in August 2012.
Engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted one test last month at the Dryden Flight Research Center near Edwards, Calif., using a helicopter to simulate specific descent paths that might used at various martian landing sites.
The new rover, named “Curiosity,” is now under construction at JPL in Pasadena, Calif.
During its final descent stage, NASA will use a “sky crane” maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission’s rocket-powered descent stage, officials said. The descent stage will carry Curiosity’s flight radar.
“The testing at Dryden included lowering a rover mock-up on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect the radar’s descent-speed determinations by the radar,” NASA said. “Helicopter-flown testing has also been conducted at other desert locations for experience in an assortment of terrains.”
Officials said the team plans to test the higher-altitude, higher-velocity part of Curiosity’s radar-aided descent later this year by flying the test radar on dives by an F/A-18 jet aircraft.
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