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Aerocapture demonstration mission

Wed, 10/25/2023 - 14:20
Start Date: 
2022
Programme: 
Preparation
End Date: 
2023
Programme Reference: 
21-P-M-HRE-06-a
Country: 
United Kingdom
Contractor: 
VORTICITY LTD
Status: 
Closed
Description: 

An interplanetary probe must decelerate from a hyperbolic interplanetory trajectory to an orbital trajectory when it arrives at its destination. Currently, this maneuvre is achieved using chemical propulsion, which means that propellant makes up a significant fraction of the vehicle mass. Aerocapture is an alternative concept that instead uses aerodynamic drag from the athmosphere of the planet to decelerate the arriving spacecraft.

So far, no mission has used aerocapture, mainly due to a lack of heritage. In this ESA pre-phase A stud, concepts were developed for a Mars aerocapture demonstration mission which would place a scientific payload in a 70deg. inclination, 1000km circular orbit using single-event drag modulation aerocapture. Such a mission would increase the aerocapture TRL and heritage, enabling its consideration for future missions.

Application Domain: 
Exploration
Technology Domain: 
10 - Flight Dynamics and GNSS
18 - Fluid Dynamics
8 - System Design & Verification
9 - Mission Operation and Ground Data Systems
Competence Domain: 
2-Structures, Mechanisms, Materials, Thermal
6-Life & Physical Science Payloads, Life Support, Robotics & Automation
7-Propulsion, Space Transportation and Re-entry Vehicles
8-Ground Systems and Mission Operations
10-Astrodynamics, Space Debris and Space Environment
Keywords: 
aerocapture
aerobreaking
Mars
Orbit insertion
Orbital capture
Re-entry
athmospheric drag
interplanetary transfer
Executive summary: