NASA – Mars Aerocapture

Mission Background:

Aerocapture technology is one of many propulsion technologies being developed by NASA technologists and their partners,  led by NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Aerocapture -- a flight manoeuvre that inserts a spacecraft into its proper orbit once it arrives at a planet – is part of a unique family of “aero assist” technologies under consideration by NASA to enable robust science missions to any planetary body with an appreciable atmosphere.  Aerocapture uses a planet’s or moon’s atmosphere to accomplish a quick, near-propellantless orbit capture to place a space vehicle in its proper orbit. The atmosphere is used as a brake to slow down a spacecraft, transferring the energy associated with the vehicle’s high speed into thermal energy.

Customer Requirements:

Vertigo the inventors of the “Hypercone” asked Vorticity to conduct the systems engineering tasks to define an aerocapture device based on an inflatable structure.

Our Work:

Vorticity worked  with Vertigo Inc on the definition of an inflatable and deformable tension cone “Hypercone” system for use in Mars aerocapture.

The Vorticity/Vertigo partnership included:

  • mission analysis
  • simulation of the controlled aerocapture event including dispersions
  • definition and refinement of the GNC algorithms
  • prediction of minimum lift/drag requirements
  • aerothermal predictions and thermal calculations
  • ballistic coefficient selection and Hypercone sizing
  • structural simulation of Hypercone deformation
  • aerodynamic analysis of the deformed Hypercone using Direct Simulation Monte Carlo methods and coupled FSI.