Modeling and Analysis of Doubly Curved Aerobrake Truss Structures

by Gregory Washington, North Carolina State Univ, Raleigh, United States,
Eric Klang, North Carolina State Univ, Raleigh, United States,

Abstract: Recent studies have indicated that vehicles designed for a piloted mission to Mars may have their initial Earth Orbit mass reduced by nearly a factor of two if aerobraking is used rather than propulsive breaking. The work presented in this thesis centers on a rigid, blunt-bodied aeroshell. The design utilizes a truss structure which would support hexagonal-shaped panels used for the thermal protection system. This concept could be more efficiently packed on the space shuttle or heavy lift launch vehicle but would require more complicated in-space construction. The methodology for modeling cones, spheres, and paraboloids was developed and computer codes were written in order to generate finite element models of these structures. Once the finite element models were generated, various parameters for reducing structural weight were identified, then the truss structure was sized and the total aerobrake weight calculated. A point design was then conducted to test the feasibility of the tetraheral truss aerobrake. The preliminary studies revealed that a Mars mission aerobrake that is strong enough to survive the aero-pass yet lightweight enough to keep mass to a minimum is a viable alternative to propulsive braking. The weight of the total aerobrake system, for the point design, was only 9.0% of the total spacecraft weight, well within the 15% mass allotment needed for the aerobrake to be feasible.

Subject Headings: Finite element method | Trusses | Structural models | Structural analysis | Aircraft and spacecraft | Computer models | Vehicles | Space exploration

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