NASA’s latest prototype could soon soar ahead in innovation and become the first plane to fly Martian skies. The invention that we’re talking about is the Prandtl-m (Photo credit: NASA/Ken Ulbich).
The plan for the Prandtl-m seems to be right out of a science-fiction movie. It was designed and developed by a group of engineering students who were working at NASA as part of an internship program in 2012 and 2013.
The model that they created was known as the Prandtl-d.
As we’ve said time and time again, an invention is never complete on this first iteration. That’s because countless updates and changes are made throughout the invention process.
If NASA’s experimental program works out, the first aircraft on Mars could be a flying wing.
In its entirety, the Prandtl-m will be a flying wing glider that’s designed specifically to fly piggyback with a future Mars rover mission to provide low-altitude reconnaissance.
As of late, the Mars missions have only operated in two altitudes: on the ground and orbital.
However, NASA hopes to fill the void with the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (Prandtl-m) prototype flying wing glider.
The image above from NASA.gov shows what the Prandtl-m could look like when flying above the surface of Mars.
The simple design of the Prandtl-m allows for it to self-correct its altitude during descent. It’s made of composite material and it’s designed to fold up and deploy from 3U CubeSat, which are the uniform, miniature satellites that are used by NASA and others for a myriad of orbital experiments.
According to Al Bowers, NASA Armstrong chief scientist and Prandtl-m program manager, “It would be able to deploy and fly in the Martian atmosphere and glide down and land. The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites.”
However, before the Prandtl-m can ever take off for the first of three test flights, the design has to be finalized.
If all goes accordingly, the plane could potentially be launched into space via a rocket and then released for a dramatic re-entry flight.
The new prototype will be ready for test flights later this year.
Copyright Inventionland, 2015