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ARES Flight Tests

ARES Scale model flight test over Earth at Mars relevant conditions
September 19, 2002 flight test in Mars relevant conditions:
Autonomous deployment and flight from 103,500 feet

Flight Testing of Key Airplane Deployment
Technologies Were Successfully Conducted in 2002.

Cover removed to show the interior of the Mars Eagle 50% scale high-altitude drop model. The flight computer is the blue box visible toward the back of the opening. Wings are shown in their stowed position, under the fuselage.

On September 19, 2002, the ARES Eagle (a 50% scale prototype) was released from a high-altitude research balloon, proving the ARES concept for deployment and flight in Mars-like conditions. The airplane's tail and wings were initially folded as if it were packaged inside the spacecraft that will deliver it to Mars. Following balloon release, the airplane tail and wings were unfolded and the airplane transitioned from free-fall to horizontal flight, just like it will have to do on Mars. This test was designed and completed with the proper Mach and Reynolds numbers to simulate the Mars environment.

High altitude balloon launch Launch of the high altitude balloon that carried the half-scale Mars Eagle up to its test altitude, above 100,000 ft.

Airplane tail camera view of the high altitude balloon just prior to airplane release at 103,500 ft. Notice that at this altitude, the sky looks black even in mid-afternoon. looking up at the balloon just prior to release
airplane tail unfolding The airplane tail was deployed immediately upon release from the balloon. In this tail camera view, the tail hinges are on the left side of the image with the airplane fuselage extending out of the bottom of the image.
After the tail deployed, the airplane fell sideways for a couple of seconds and caught this nice view of the Earth's limb. The tail parachute inflated soon afterward and pointed the airplane's nose back toward the ground. falling sideways with view of Earths limb
left wing beginning to unfold The left wing is just beginning to unfold in this frame from the tail camera video.
The right wing unfolding with a clear view of the wing hinge mechanisms. right wing unfolding
energy absorbing hinge The wing hinges were specially designed to absorb the shock loads created when the wings open.

They ensure that the wing deployment doesn't damage the plane even if the combination of wing inertia loads and aerodynamic loads are much higher than expected.

After the tail and wings were deployed and locked, the parachute was released and the airplane could start flying.

The airplane autonomously executed a pull-up maneuver at conditions that matched the Mach number and Reynolds number the full-scale airplane will experience on Mars.

airplane pullout maneuver
pullout complete This image shows the airplane flying straight and level following the pull-up maneuver. The data gathered from the deployment and the flight matched very well with pre-flight predictions.
After flying straight for a while to collect steady-state aerodynamic data, the airplane executed a long left turn to line up for its long return flight to the launch site. Mars Eagle airplane turning left
Mars Eagle airplane turning right The airplane continued to fly pre-programmed patterns for the next 90 minutes until it was time to land.
The flight came to an end with a picture-perfect landing. Mars Eagle airplane landing on the runway

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Page last updated: 08/02/2011