NASA has identified the issue that delayed the maiden flight of its Ingenuity Mars helicopter and will need to install a software update to correct it.
During a planned high-speed spin test on April 9, the Ingenuity helicopter ran into trouble transitioning between its pre-flight and flight modes. The issue triggered an automatic abort of the test ensuring the helicopter was not damaged.
In an April 12 update, NASA said that the issue would require a software update to correct it. The new software will modify how the two flight controllers boot up which should allow the hardware and software to transition between flight modes safely.
While the modification to Ingenuity’s software is relatively straightforward, validating the software and uploading it to the helicopter on the surface of Mars will take time. As a result, NASA has stated it can not yet reschedule the maiden flight of Ingenuity but that the agency was working towards being able to set a new flight date next week.
Once the software update has been created, validated and uploaded to Ingenuity, ground controllers will attempt to boot the helicopter on the new flight software. If successful, preparations for the maiden flight will begin anew with spin tests preceding the historic first flight.
Until then, the diminutive robotic explorer remains healthy with critical functions such as communications, power, and thermal control operating nominally.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars on its belly and acts as a communications relay between Earth and helicopter, will continue to perform scientific operations while it waits for its companion to get its upgrade.