January 29, 2004
A couple of weeks ago, Ted from Rocket Jones also sent me an email about a Mars Airplane currently being developed under the Mars Scout Mission program Â–
Manassas, VA. Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. announced today an order from the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., for a full-scale prototype of a proposed Mars airplane. The aircraft is being built as part of the Mars Scout Aerial Regional-Scale Environmental Survey (ARES) project of which Dr. Joel S. Levine is the Principal Investigator.
In 2002 Aurora and NASA Langley successfully demonstrated a half-scale version of the airplane in a series of low altitude and high altitude drop tests. The new airplane is to be a full-scale version, designed to demonstrate flight-weight components and actual aerodynamics. The prototype plane is scheduled to make its first flight later this year with a deployment test in the upper reaches of the EarthÂ’s atmosphere.
Ted was lucky enough to actually see some of the projects Aurora Flight Sciences Corp is working on as he told me in the email -
The reason I know about these people is that the owner of the company and his kids are in our rocket club. Good people, as they say. I've been in Aurora's building and all of the hardware and projects are probably like Disneyland to an engineer. To me, it was just cool.
That's right, they're well into developement of a semi-remote controlled robotic glider aircraft that will soar the skies of Mars, mapping and using radar to gather yet more data about the red planet.
There are some intriguing video clips of the testing at the Aurora site. One in particular clearly showed the tail surfaces unfolding after being released from the high altitude balloon which carried it aloft.
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