• Cyberian's Gold

    MEDLI2 was one among the crucial technologies onboard the rover’s protective aeroshell that helped document the entry, descent, and landing of the spacecraft.


    Editor’s note: This story has been updated and text has been added to the conclusion.

    "Tango delta. Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, able to begin seeking the signs of past life.” For quite six years, the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) team waited to listen to these words.

    NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed Feb. 18, 2021, beginning its robotic exploration of the Mars . MEDLI2 was one among the crucial technologies on the rover’s protective aeroshell that helped document the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) of the spacecraft. All of the MEDLI2 data was stored on Perseverance for transmission to Earth after a successful landing.

    MEDLI2’s role was to gather critical data about the tough environment during Perseverance’s entry through the planet’s atmosphere. It included three sorts of sensors – thermocouples, heat flux sensors, and pressure transducers – that measured extreme heat and pressure during entry. It also contained electronics and hardware for recording the thermal and pressure loads experienced during entry and thru the parachute deployment.

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    MEDLI2 used its measurements to work out the warmth ing and atmospheric forces that occurred on the heat shield and back shell. Together, these two components structure the aeroshell, which housed and guarded the Perseverance rover during the cruise to Mars and EDL.

    MEDLI2 was powered on five hours before the “7 Minutes of Terror,” or final 7-minute descent to Mars. This provided time for MEDLI2’s electronics to stabilize temperature and measure the initial conditions before entry. The team was relieved to receive the indication that MEDLI2 was successfully activated. The team continued to watch the incoming data throughout this five-hour coast phase before entry.

    The majority of the MEDLI2 sensors and therefore the primary electronics were mounted on the Mars 2020 protective covering . About 10 seconds after the supersonic parachute deployed, MEDLI2 was powered down for the last time because it had completed its job. Since it’s critical for the warmth shield to be separated to permit the Perseverance rover to be extracted from the entry vehicle, it had been required that MEDLI2 be turned off a couple of seconds before the separation to stop any electric power issues. The harness connecting the warmth shield and back shell was then severed by the firing of a pyro-cutter, and therefore the protective covering was dropped.

    “We didn’t find any issues with the separation,” said Henry Wright, MEDLI2 project manager at NASA’s Langley research facility in Hampton, Virginia. “The protective covering cleanly separated from the Mars 2020 entry vehicle. The MEDLI2 hardware was clearly visible on the warmth shield because it fell toward the surface of Mars. Job well done!”

    Perseverance also returned “critical event data” in real time during the EDL. It included a subset of the MEDLI2 data which allowed observations into what the entry vehicle was experiencing because the entry was happening. Three days after Perseverance’s successful landing, the remaining MEDLI2 data was transmitted back to Earth, and therefore the next phase of the project began: data analysis and performance reconstruction.

    “The returned data is fascinating. It’s like having a bird’s eye view of what’s happening to the aeroshell because it flies through Martian skies. The MEDLI2 sensor signals are so clear we could immediately detect interesting phenomenon and crucial events” said Todd White, MEDLI2 PI at NASA’s Ames research facility in California’s Silicon Valley .

    Data collected from MEDLI2 also provides measurements which will be wont to determine the properties of the atmosphere the Mars 2020 entry vehicle flew through. MEDLI2 provides essential EDL observation data to know what proportion margin remained on the Perseverance entry along side data which will be wont to improve prediction models and tools for future missions.

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    Heat shield insulation temperatures were recorded throughout the entire entry phase and were according to the entry predictions. the height measured temperature within the protective covering during the entry was 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,000 degrees Celsius. That correlates to an estimated peak protective covering outer temperature of about 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,400 degrees Celsius.

    MEDLI2 also used its embedded thermocouples to work out what proportion of the warmth shield protective insulation may have burned away or ablated. All of the thermocouples survived the entry heating pulse, indicating the warmth shield ablation was very low. This observation might be wont to reevaluate the quantity of insulation that’s needed on a protective covering to potentially reduce the general entry vehicle mass.

    Surface pressures were also measured throughout an equivalent phase with a peak surface pressure of the warmth shield matching the team’s entry predictions. MEDLI2 picked different sensors to specialise in accurately capturing different flight regimes. One sensor covered the entire range of the utmost surface pressures. The remaining six protective covering pressure measurements had a variety to more accurately capture the conditions during the supersonic flight regime (from about five times the speed of sound on Mars through the deployment of the supersonic parachute). These sensors, combined with onboard inertial measurements, allows additional insight into how the entry vehicle performs when the impacts of atmospheric density variations and winds are more pronounced. The MEDLI2 pressure data are going to be wont to improve the modeling approach for future EDL missions.

    MEDLI2 included sensors on the rear shell of the Mars 2020 entry vehicle, a neighborhood that so far has had limited observations. Surface pressure, insulation temperature, and direct surface heating measurements comprised the rear shell sensor suite. Knowledge of the surface pressure on the rear of the entry vehicle contributes to a discount within the size of the landing footprint. Back shell insulation temperature data was within the initial predictions, which may be wont to reduce the modeling uncertainty. like the warmth shield insulation, understanding the rear shell insulation temperature performance could lead on to a discount within the back shell insulation mass. Direct surface heating measurements of the rear shell also contribute to reducing the uncertainty within the predictive models.

    MEDLI2 data also included a variety of “housekeeping” measurements. These included variety of compensating temperature measurements of critical science sensors. Much of this housekeeping data is additionally of keen interest to the Mars 2020 team to assist in their own EDL reconstruction efforts. a part of the housekeeping measurements included sensors internal to the MEDLI2 support electronics (voltages, internal temperatures, MEDLI2 heartbeat/clock, etc.).

    The MEDLI2 team will still analyze the info for subsequent six months, refining NASA’s understanding of the Mars atmosphere, the acute conditions of entry, and the way well the Mars 2020 aeroshell protected the rover. These lessons are going to be immediately useful for subsequent Mars missions, and even missions headed for Titan.

    Langley led the MEDLI2 instrument development and project management. NASA’s Ames research facility in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s reaction propulsion Laboratory in Southern California contributed to MEDLI2. NASA’s Game Changing Development program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate funded the technology development.

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