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Mission sizing and trade studies for low ballistic coefficient entry systems to Venus

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4 Author(s)
Dutta, S. ; Daniel Guggenheim Sch. of Aerosp. Eng., Georgia Inst. of Technol., Atlanta, GA, USA ; Smith, B. ; Prabhu, D. ; Venkatapathy, E.

The U.S and the U.S.S.R. have sent seventeen successful atmospheric entry missions to Venus. Past missions to Venus have utilized rigid aeroshell systems for entry. This rigid aeroshell paradigm sets performance limitations since the size of the entry vehicle is constrained by the fairing diameter of the launch vehicle. This has limited ballistic coefficients (β) to well above 100 kg/m2 for the entry vehicles. In order to maximize the science payload and minimize the Thermal Protection System (TPS) mass, these missions have entered at very steep entry flight path angles (γ). Due to Venus' thick atmosphere and the steep-γ, high-β conditions, these entry vehicles have been exposed to very high heat flux, very high pressures and extreme decelerations (upwards of 100 g's). Deployable aeroshells avoid the launch vehicle fairing diameter constraint by expanding to a larger diameter after the launch. Due to the potentially larger wetted area, deployable aeroshells achieve lower ballistic coefficients (well below 100 kg/m2), and if they are flown at shallower flight path angles, the entry vehicle can access trajectories with far lower decelerations (~50-60 g's), peak heat fluxes (~400 W/cm2) and peak pressures. The structural and TPS mass of the shallow-γ, low-β deployables are lower than their steep-γ, high-β rigid aeroshell counterparts at larger diameters, contributing to lower areal densities and potentially higher payload mass fractions. For example, at large diameters, deployables may attain aeroshell areal densities of 10 kg/m2 as opposed to 50 kg/m2 for rigid aeroshells. However, the low-β, shallow-γ paradigm also raises issues, such as the possibility of skip-out during entry. The shallow-γ could also increase the landing footprint of the vehicle. Furthermore, the deployable entry systems may be flexible, so there could - e fluid-structure interaction, especially in the high altitude, low-density regimes. The need for precision in guidance, navigation and control during entry also has to be better understood. This paper investigates some of the challenges facing the design of a shallow-γ, low-β entry system.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2012 IEEE

Date of Conference:

3-10 March 2012