AeroVironment has been awarded a $10 million contract by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to co-design and co-develop conceptual designs and engineering development units of Mars Sample Recovery Helicopter flight systems. The helicopters build upon the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter design heritage and feature upgraded robotics to supplement aerial mobility.
The two Sample Recovery Helicopters will expand on Ingenuity’s design, adding wheels and gripping capabilities, to provide a secondary method to pick up cached sample tubes left on the surface by NASA’s Perseverance rover and transport them to the Sample Retrieval Lander.
Scott Newbern, AeroVironment’s vice president and chief technology officer, said, “Now we’re advancing this science further by helping to build helicopters that not only will continue flight on Mars, but also will include apparatus to collect samples to bring back to Earth for this historic mission.”
The Mars Sample Recovery mission aims to collect the first-ever samples from the Martian surface for return to Earth. Once the sample cache is launched off the red planet, another spacecraft would capture it in Mars orbit and bring it back to Earth safely and securely in the early to mid-2030s.