NASA has thrown its support behind CoFlow Jet’s groundbreaking project, MAGGIE (Mars Aerial and Ground Intelligent Explorer), a solar-powered Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) designed for extensive exploration of Mars. MAGGIE is a crucial component of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which aims to nurture and fund technological innovations, transforming them from conceptual studies into tangible products with potential commercial applications.

The heart of MAGGIE lies in CoFlow Jet’s advanced deflected slipstream technology, which strategically directs airflow to enhance the efficiency and performance of the solar-powered eVTOL. With NASA’s backing, the development of this aircraft is set to facilitate three distinct atmospheric and geophysical investigations, aligning with different timescales of the Dynamic Mars science theme.

Dr. Ge-Cheng Zha, the founder of CoFlow Jet, highlights the diverse studies MAGGIE will conduct, probing into Mars’ geology, atmosphere, and subsurface to uncover its history, explore the potential for past or present life, and map the distribution of resources like water ice. While the conceptual solar-powered eVTOL for Mars exploration shows promise, the design team acknowledges the need for further investigation, design refinement, and verification under Martian atmospheric conditions during Phase I.

A glimpse at MAGGIE’s design reveals a solar-covered exterior, with L-shaped wings adorned with solar panels to sustain the aircraft’s green energy production, enabling it to soar through the Martian skies. Equipped with 14 exposed rotors, the NASA-backed solar-powered eVTOL is projected to cruise at a speed of 0.25 Mach number and boast a lift coefficient of 3.5 during cruising, making it suitable for atmospheres with lower density, such as that of Mars.

Over the course of a Martian year, MAGGIE is anticipated to cover an impressive distance of 16,048 kilometers with a fully charged battery, flying at an altitude of 1,000 meters (approximately 3,280 feet) above the Martian surface. CoFlow Jet envisions that once production-ready, MAGGIE will mark a groundbreaking advancement in ongoing Mars exploration, offering a significant leap in capability for NASA’s exploration of the Red Planet. Beyond its technical achievements, MAGGIE is poised to captivate public interest with its audacity and its potential to explore, study, and image diverse Martian environments.

In the 2024 Phase I of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), MAGGIE, along with 12 other concepts from various companies and institutions across the United States, received grants of up to $175,000. These grants aim to evaluate conceptual technologies that could evolve into real devices, products, and developments for space missions, including Mars exploration. MAGGIE shares the spotlight with other innovative concepts, including a swarm of tiny spacecraft destined for Proxima Centauri and a spacecraft designed to endure Venus’ harsh atmosphere and return surface samples using high-temperature technology and solar aircraft.

By Impact Lab