Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Gets Its First Battery Charge in Space

Ingenuity Helicopter got a charge in space - Courtesy NASA-JPL

Edited by SCOTT RATHMAN

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter which is aboard the Perseverance rover on its way to the Red Planet, recharged its power system in space, it was announced by NASA-JPL.  It’s the first charge in space of the batteries that power the 4-pound helicopter.

During the eight-hour operation, the performance of the rotorcraft’s six lithium-ion batteries was analyzed as the team brought their charge level up to 35 percent. The team determined a low charge state is best for battery health during the 7-month cruise to Mars.

“This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a ‘test drive’ since we launched on July 30,” said Tim Canham, operations lead for the Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Since everything went by the book, we’ll perform the same activity about every two weeks to maintain an acceptable state of charge.”

The 4-pound (2-kilogram) helicopter, which is a combination of specially designed components and off-the-shelf parts, is stowed in Perseverance’s belly and receives its charge from the rover’s power supply.

Once Ingenuity is deployed on the Mars surface after Perseverance touches down, its batteries will be charged by the helicopter’s solar panel. If Ingenuity survives the cold Martian nights during its preflight checkout, testing will continue.

“This charge activity shows we have survived launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. “We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling very good about the future.”