The Mars Helicopter will be a technology demonstration conducted during the Mars 2020 mission. The primary mission objective is to achieve several 90-second flights and capture visible light images via forward and nadir mounted cameras. These flights could possibly provide reconnaissance data for sampling site selection for other Mars surface missions. The helicopter is powered by a solar array, which stores energy in secondary batteries for flight operations, imaging, communications, and survival heating.

Despite recent advances in computer aided design (CAD) based tools, spacecraft thermal analysis remains outside the realm of finite element method (FEM) based analysis. The primary complaints against FEM often cited are:

Thermal engineering has long been left out of the concurrent engineering environment dominated by CAD (computer aided design) and FEM (finite element method) software.  Current tools attempt to force the thermal design process into an environment primarily created to support structural analysis, which results in inappropriate thermal models. As a result, many thermal engineers either build models “by hand” or use geometric user interfaces that are separate from and have little useful connection, if any, to CAD and FEM systems.