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Theodore Tzanetos

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Mid-Air Helicopter Delivery at Mars Using a Jetpack

Mar 07, 2022
Jeff Delaune, Jacob Izraelevitz, Samuel Sirlin, David Sternberg, Louis Giersch, L. Phillipe Tosi, Evgeniy Skliyanskiy, Larry Young, Michael Mischna, Shannah Withrow-Maser, Juergen Mueller, Joshua Bowman, Mark S Wallace, Havard F. Grip, Larry Matthies, Wayne Johnson, Matthew Keennon, Benjamin Pipenberg, Harsh Patel, Christopher Lim, Aaron Schutte, Marcel Veismann, Haley Cummings, Sarah Conley, Jonathan Bapst, Theodore Tzanetos, Roland Brockers, Abhinandan Jain, David Bayard, Art Chmielewski, Olivier Toupet, Joel Burdick, Morteza Gharib, J., Balaram

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Mid-Air Helicopter Delivery (MAHD) is a new Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) architecture to enable in situ mobility for Mars science at lower cost than previous missions. It uses a jetpack to slow down a Mars Science Helicopter (MSH) after separation from the backshell, and reach aerodynamic conditions suitable for helicopter take-off in mid air. For given aeroshell dimensions, only MAHD's lander-free approach leaves enough room in the aeroshell to accommodate the largest rotor option for MSH. This drastically improves flight performance, notably allowing +150\% increased science payload mass. Compared to heritage EDL approaches, the simpler MAHD architecture is also likely to reduce cost, and enables access to more hazardous and higher-elevation terrains on Mars. This paper introduces a design for the MAHD system architecture and operations. We present a mechanical configuration that fits both MSH and the jetpack within the 2.65-m Mars heritage aeroshell, and a jetpack control architecture which fully leverages the available helicopter avionics. We discuss preliminary numerical models of the flow dynamics resulting from the interaction between the jets, the rotors and the side winds. We define a force-torque sensing architecture capable of handling the wind and trimming the rotors to prepare for safe take-off. Finally, we analyze the dynamic environment and closed-loop control simulation results to demonstrate the preliminary feasibility of MAHD.

* Accepted in 2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference 
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