Aerocapture Technologies are Ready for Future Mission Use

Monday, March 18, 2019 - 09:50 in Astronomy & Space

This blog post originated in the 2017 Science Mission Directorate Technology Highlights Report (33 MB PDF). Technology Development Aerocapture technologies have the potential to enable orbital missions to the outer planets and their satellites by the judicious use of aerodynamic forces in a planetary atmosphere. These forces can be used to guide a spacecraft from an inbound approach trajectory to its final desired orbit. During the past few decades, SMD has sponsored several technology development efforts to advance aerocapture capabilities. In 2017, SMD’s Planetary Science Division commissioned the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to execute a research activity focused on assessing the readiness of aerocapture for NASA’s future exploration missions. The investigation examined the state of the art for thesemissions with an emphasis on identifying any technology or risk reduction investments that would be most beneficial (or required) for robotic science missions. The phases of a typical aerocapture maneuver sequence. Using aerocapture rather than a propulsive orbital...

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