National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Radar for Mars Gets Flight Tests at NASA Dryden
Radar for Mars Gets Flight Tests at NASA Dryden
21 Jun 2011
(Source: NASA/JPL)

NASA Dryden's F-18 852
NASA Dryden's F-18 852 makes a 40-degree dive towards Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards AFB with the Mars Science Laboratory's landing radar during verification and validation flights. Project flights have included vertical 90-degree dives. (NASA / Carla Thomas)

Southern California's high desert has been a stand-in for Mars for NASA technology testing many times over the years. And so it is again, in a series of flights by an F/A-18 aircraft to test the landing radar for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The flight profile is designed to have the F/A-18 climb to 40,000 feet (about 12,000 meters). From there, it makes a series of subsonic, stair-step dives at angles of 40 to 90 degrees to simulate what the Mars radar will see while the spacecraft is on a parachute descending through the Martian atmosphere. The F/A-18 pulls out of each dive at 5,000 feet (about 1,500 meters. Data collected by these flights will be used to finesse the Mars landing radar software, to help ensure that it is calibrated as accurately as possible.

The testing is a collaboration of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Earlier tests, with a helicopter carrying the test radar, simulated the lower-altitude portion of the spacecraft's descent to the surface of Mars. For more information about the F/A-18 tests, see http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/F-18_flying_msl_radar.html.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission's rover, named Curiosity, will be shipped this month from JPL to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to be readied for launch between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. The spacecraft will arrive at Mars in August 2012. After Curiosity lands on Mars, researchers will use the rover's 10 science instruments during the following two years to investigate whether the landing area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. More information about the mission is online at: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.


Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

2011-188

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 21 Jun 2011