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Current Mars entry, descent, and landing technology is near its performance limit and is unable to land payloads on the surface that exceed approximately 1 metric ton. One option for increasing landed payload mass capability is decreasing the entry vehicle's hypersonic ballistic coefficient. A lower ballistic coefficient vehicle decelerates higher in the atmosphere, providing additional timeline and altitude margin necessary for heavier payloads. This study analyzed the guided entry performance of concept low ballistic coefficient vehicles at Mars. A terminal point controller guidance algorithm was used to provide precision targeting capability. Accuracy at parachute deploy, peak deceleration, peak heat rate, and integrated heat load were assessed and compared to a traditional vehicle to determine the effects of lowering the vehicle ballistic coefficient on entry performance. Results from this study suggest that while accuracy at parachute deploy degrades with decreasing ballistic coefficient, accuracy and other performance metrics remain within reasonable bounds for ballistic coefficients as low as 1 kg/m2. As such, this investigation demonstrates that from a performance standpoint, guided entry vehicles with large diameters may be feasible at Mars.
Aerospace Conference, 2012 IEEE
Date of Conference: 3-10 March 2012