🛸Mars Phoenix Landing RADAR

From the 6th floor in a 5 story building


The field tests were staged from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Facility near Mojave, California, and were conducted by flying the radar over various types of terrain. To reproduce as much of the dynamics expected during a Mars landing, there were two types of tests. The first test was a captive carry test, where the radar and support equipment were attached to the underside of highly maneuverable ASTAR AS350 B2 helicopter. To simulate on-chute dynamics, the helicopter varied its roll angle by more then 50 deg every few seconds.

Additional tests were conducted in a drop-test configuration. Using a high-speed winch, an aerodynamic package containing the radar and its support equipment were put into controlled descent below a UH-1 Huey helicopter. The winch system had a payout of over 1400 m and operated at up to 70 m=s. The helicopter had a ceiling around 3700 m AGL, allowing the radar to be turned on above the maximum altitude so that it could start a descent profile and be in a dynamically flightlike configuration while achieving lock on the ground. Figure 3 shows the nominal Phoenix EDL trajectory (altitude and descent rate) as the dashed line, which show the descent on the parachute followed by the transition to powered descent below 1000 m. The other lines represent dynamic configurations achieved during field testing. The slow descents (near 10 m=s) are capture- carry tests, while the many high-speed tests covering altitudes of radar operation used the drop-test configuration. The operating range of altitudes and velocities expected during the tracking phase of EDL was well covered by the field test. Nevertheless, there was no way to test a jettisoned heatshield scenario, since that event occurs around 11 km AGL.