Software Update for Mars Helicopter Ingenuity

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Mars Helicopter Ingenuity have to delay its debut flight on Mars. Last April 9, 20201- Sol 49, During its commissioning phase, in preparation for the April 11, 2021 flight and the process of a high-speed spin test of the rotors, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode.

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Ingenuity is safe and healthy, the telemetry that was sent back to earth was reviewed and have to do a software patch for the issues found in the command sequence. Ingenuity team has the software solution already in motion and validation will commence once the patch is decided ready.

How to patch a rover software?

Developing the new software is straightforward. The validation will be rigorous and intensive. The most challenging would be the actual patch itself. Remember this a software update million miles away from Earth. It would be a stepped process. Sending or completing the up-link to Ingenuity will take more time. Once fully received, it take another validation if the software is complete, every bit of it. We also have to keep in mind that before reaching Ingenuity, it has to go first to the helicopter’s base station which is in Perseverance rover then to the helicopter. Ingenuity team have laid milestones for the process which include:

  • Diagnose the issue and develop potential solutions
  • Develop/validate and upload software
  • Load flight software onto flight controllers
  • Boot Ingenuity on new flight software

Flight test was delayed no earlier than April 14, 2021. But with the series of validation involved just to reach the milestones, the actual flight date still fluid. We’ll have find out next week for further updates and Ingenuity team is confident the we will see the first powered flight on Mars soon.

Not the first time for a million mile patch

Here are some notable software patch done to previous rovers. This include during flight and after landing. You can view the detail publication about the technical attributes of such process on this link > Patching Flight Software on Mars – JPL Robotics – NASA

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