After working on the 8-rotor Titan Moon Drone Dragonfly mission for an extended period, NASA’s engineers and scientists successfully built a powerful prototype drone that would soon be completed to visit Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. NASA is deploying the knowledge it acquired from operating its Ingenuity Mars helicopter to design the Dragonfly.
Note that Ingenuity is the first rotorcraft to fly on the surface of another planet. Hence, NASA actually learned a lot from its operation on Mars. The agency is now developing a more massive space vehicle to explore Saturn’s largest moon. NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft is built with eight rotors and is the size of a small car.
Engineers and scientists formed a team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland to perform a series of tests on the half-scale prototype of the rotorcraft. The team of researchers shared footage showing how they conducted this testing.
What You Should Know About NASA’s Dragonfly Mission to Explore The First Ocean World
For decades, NASA anticipated exploring the surface of another ocean world with similar features to Earth. After years of planning, the American Space Agency decided to design the Dragonfly mission as its first attempt to explore the surface of another celestial body with oceans.
Titan possesses similar features to Earth including rivers, weather systems, seas, and lakes on its surface. However, its surface is flooded with liquid methane instead of water which differentiates the moon from Earth. However, the similarities between Titan to Earth made scientists develop a unique interest in exploring the moon’s surface in search of alien life.
NASA is planning to study Titan’s surface with its Dragonfly spacecraft. This mission will reveal a lot of information about the Saturn’s largest moon. Unlike Mars with its thin atmosphere, Titan possesses thicker clouds making it much easier for the rotorcraft to fly across the surface of the moon.
The largest moon Saturn also has lower gravity than Mars. Hence, its low gravity will keep the Dragonfly flying without experiencing many challenges.
The Dragonfly will be launched in 2027. If everything works according to plan, the rotorcraft will arrive in the ocean world by 2034.
“With Dragonfly, we’re turning science fiction into exploration fact,” Ken Hibbard, Dragonfly mission systems engineer at APL, added in the NASA post. “The mission is coming together piece by piece, and we’re excited for every next step toward sending this revolutionary rotorcraft across the skies and surface of Titan.”
While observing the cosmos in 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured more detailed observations of Titan, which enabled astronomers to learn more about the moon. However, when the Dragonfly arrives in Saturn in 2034, it will provide more details that will improve our general knowledge about the moon and our Solar System as well.
How Researchers Conducted The Recent Testing On The Dragonfly
A team of NASA researchers conducted the recent tests in the wind tunnels of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia. NASA revealed in its blog post, how the Dragonfly team conducted testing on a half-scale Dragonfly lander model with has eight rotors in Langley’s 14-by-22 Subsonic Tunnel.
They also tested the rotorcraft in two separate configurations. These configurations tested the rotorcraft’s descent and transition to powered flight and also its forward flight immediately after it commences with operation on Titan.
“We tested conditions across the expected flight envelope at a variety of wind speeds, rotor speeds, and flight angles to assess the aerodynamic performance of the vehicle,” test lead Bernadine Juliano explained.
“We completed more than 700 total runs, encompassing over 4,000 individual data points,” she continued. “All test objectives were successfully accomplished and the data will help increase confidence in our simulation models on Earth before extrapolating to Titan conditions.”
You can now watch the video showing the test footage as shared by APL below.
NASA recently released a video showing the progress made in the development of its Dragonfly rotorcraft. Once completed, the rotorcraft will be launched in 2027 to arrive at Titan in 2034. This Dragonfly mission will unlock several hidden mysteries about the largest moon of Saturn. What do you think about this progress? Check out these best Saturn gifts for space lovers. Note that the Amazon links attached below are affiliate links. When you make a purchase, we may make a commission. Thank you for always supporting Future Space World.