With Flight 15, Ingenuity began the return trip to “Wright Brothers Field” at “Octavia E. Butler Landing”, the site where Perseverance landed with Ingenuity in February. This flight was performed with the rotor speed recently increased to 2,700 rpm. After reviewing the data from Flight 15, the Ingenuity team is ready to attempt our Flight 16 no earlier than Thursday, November 18.
Flight 16 will be a 109 seconds shorter flight. The ingenuity will soar up to 33 feet (10 meters), fly over “raised ridges” at 3 mph (1.5 meters per second), then land near the edge of “South Séítah”, covering a distance of 380 feet ( 116 meters). We plan to capture a series of Return to Earth Camera (RTE) images in nine colors, evenly spaced throughout the flight, oriented southwest and away from the flight path.
If we could fly over Séítah on Flight 9, why are we dividing the way back into several segments? As noted in the Flight 9 retrospective article, Séítah’s terrain is particularly difficult for Ingenuity’s navigation algorithm. Since the navigation algorithm assumes level terrain, any change in the height of the terrain introduces a heading error. On Flight 9, Ingenuity landed 154 feet (47 meters) from the center of our 164-foot (50-meter) radius target aerodrome. The heading error on flight 9 was less worrying because the terrain at South Séítah was benign and allowed a great degree of uncertainty about our landing position. However, the terrain on the north side of Séítah is more rocky. As a result, we need to be more precise in our landing location on the way back. Flight 16 will tackle the delicate terrain of the Raised Ridges. By flying short over these peaks, we reduce the accumulated heading error that can accumulate on longer flights.
Flight 16 will install Ingenuity for a crossing of Séítah on Flight 17, bringing us closer to the current objective of Wright Brothers Field. While waiting for the Perseverance rover to catch up after Flight 17, the Ingenuity team plans to update the flight software to enable new navigation capabilities and better prepare Ingenuity for future flights.
Written by Joshua Anderson, Ingenuity ">March Helicopter tactical leader ">NasaJet propulsion laboratory of.