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Mars Airplane Prototype Design Specifications


As part of the process for the scientific exploration of other planets, researchers will use aircraft to survey large areas of the planet. Instruments on the airplane will analyze samples from varied regions of the atmosphere and they will perform remote sensing surveys of the planet's surface. To gain a greater understanding of Mars, an airplane needs to be designed to meet the needs of such an unmanned scientific expedition.


Since the atmosphere of Mars is distinctly different from that of Earth, consideration needs to be given to a fixed wing aircraft design that will fly in such an atmosphere, and be able to carry and use a scientific payload.

Design Brief

Design a fixed wing airplane that is capable of sustained, powered, controlled flight in the atmosphere of Mars carrying a scientific payload with a mass of at least 2 kg.


  1. The aircraft must be able to carry a scientific payload of at least 2 kg and include 2 of the following experimental equipment:
    A) Atmospheric Indicators (air pressure, air temperature, turbulence, composition, density, electromagnetic survey) 1 kg

    B) Magnetometer (low altitude aeromagnetic survey) 1.25 kg

    C) NIR Spectrometer (near infrared spectroscopy full range imaging) 1 kg

    D) Point Spectrometer (boresighted spectroscopy to remotely determine surface mineralogy for limited baseline capability) 1 kg

    E) High Resolution Camera (10 cm resolution)0.75kg

    F) Context Video Camera (1 - 3 meter resolution) 1 kg

  2. Aircraft must be of a fixed wing design.
  3. Aircraft must have sustained, controlled flight in Mars' atmosphere. You should carry as much payload as possible with a minimum duration of 30 minutes.
  4. Propulsion system must be functional within the Mars atmosphere.
  5. Must be able to withstand airspeeds of approximately 700 kph with an average airspeed range of 300 kph - 400 kph.



You will work in teams of _____ in roles assigned by your teacher functioning as aeronautical researcher, aeronautical engineer, designer, fabricator and evaluator.


You will use a computer connected to the Internet, a resource library and other aeronautical engineers and researchers in the field to research the aeronautical information, to assist in the design process and to test your model.


You will use the research information found on this web site and other links to assist you in your decisions prior to virtually constructing and testing your model in the section "Design Your Mars Airplane".


You may use the energy generated by your group's collective brain power to develop this design and the "virtual engines" found on the web site to provide the thrust for your model.

Capital (Money)

Your team will have enough of a research budget to complete the work as assigned.


You have ___ class sessions as assigned by your teacher to devote to research, design, virtual model construction, model evaluation, design revision and final evaluation. Be prepared to present your report to your colleagues upon project completion.


Use the format provided by your teacher. Note the best working model and drawings of successful and unsuccessful designs. Explain why some models were more successful than others.

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