Mission phases

Sky-Sailor would be carried to Mars in a small aeroshell that would be attached to a carrier spacecraft. Upon reaching the red planet, the aeroshell would be released for direct entry into the Martian atmosphere. From this point, the operations could be decomposed in different phases:

During phase 1, the Micro Airplane is stowed, together with its deployment means in a cylindrical volume of 1 [m] in diameter and 0.40 [m] in height. After the ballistic entry of the aeroshell, the supersonic deployment of a decelerator parachute would reduce the speed [1]. Stowage possibilities and deployment means, using springs or only aerodynamic forces [3], will be investigated and tested.

Phase 2 corresponds to the subsonic release of Sky-Sailor during the atmospheric entry of the aeroshell traveling at speed in the range of 30 to 60 [m/s]. It should be deployed at high altitude and will need self-stabilization to initiate the flight. The airplane shall then reach the desired flight altitude of 1.5 [km].

During phase 3, Sky-Sailor performs scientific operations, depending on the season between 45°N and 45°S from Martian equator, at a nominal height with a predefined path. It explores large areas and records atmospheric, ground and/or geological data that will be transmitted to Earth via a Mars orbiter. Dropping of small payload like micro-robots is also possible for ground interaction at specific location. Flying at a speed of 40 [m/s], the airplane can cover a distance of approximately 1700 [km] during a 12 [h] period. During the night, the vital goal is to remain airborne, using minimal energy from the battery.

At phase 4, the exploration mission will end when the airplane crashes normally due to the batteries life cycle and dust deposition on solar panels. However, a controlled crash-landing shall allow the mission to continue for some time with a ground interaction possibility. If a failure occurs during phase 3, the airplane interrupts all scientific activities and tries to remain airborne until a communication link to Earth can be established, in order to troubleshoot the failure or modify the mission.