Here is the excellent software approach that could help NASA’s Mars Helicopter fix an issue
As per the sources, we came to know that NASA is getting ready to “patch” the flight computer software on its Ingenuity Mars helicopter to get it ready to fly again after its winter hibernation. The software patch, which effectively hacks Ingenuity’s flight computer software, will trick the flight computer into thinking readings from one operating sensor are coming from a sensor that has recently ceased working.
During Mars winter, Ingenuity, which initially flew on Mars in April 2021, has been in a limited operating mode during the Martian winter. To preserve electricity, Ingenuity has been turned off at night throughout this season. According to Håvard Fjær Grip, chief pilot of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, shutting down has resulted in inside temperatures of the aircraft plunging to roughly – 112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius) at night, raising the risk of electronic components getting compromised.
Moreover, Grip’s crew was trying to thoroughly restore the helicopter for flight, and NASA experts found the inclinometer had stopped operating. Although the inclinometer is not used during the flight, it is necessary for assessing orientation before take-off.
The inclinometer, according to Grip, is made up of two accelerometers whose sole purpose is to monitor gravity before spin-up and takeoff; the detected gravity’s direction is used to determine how Ingenuity is positioned about gravity. Even though the inclinometer isn’t used during the flight, we’ll need to come up with a new way to set the navigation algorithms before taking off without it.
As per the sources, we also came to know that the NASA engineers anticipated that the inclinometer would fail, so they worked out a software fix before the mission landed on Mars that would allow the onboard flight computer to use other accelerometers in the separate inertial measurement unit (IMU) as a backup if the inclinometer failed. The patch has the effect of allowing the IMU’s sensors to accurately duplicate the inclinometer to measure starting attitude. Because the IMU is not meant to sense static orientation like the inclinometer, its initial attitude predictions will be less precise. They believe that an IMU-based first attitude measurement will enable them to take off securely, enabling Ingenuity to resume flight.
The patch includes code that intercepts garbage packets from the failing sensor and replaces them with packets from IMU data in Ingenuity’s flight computer software. It’s not how flight software should behave, yet it does in this case thanks to NASA’s modification.
Furthermore, the hack, according to Grip, installs a short code snippet into Ingenuity’s flight computer software, collecting incoming garbage packets from the inclinometer and injecting replacement packets created from IMU data. Everything will appear the same to the navigation algorithms as previously, with the exception that the received inclinometer packets do not originate from the inclinometer. The very next step is to implement the patch and finish the commissioning process to check that the new software is working properly. According to NASA, assuming everything goes well, the crew intends to complete uplinking and deploy the software patch over the following several sols, followed by commissioning activities to check the new software is working properly.