Structural Considerations in the Design of a Mars Mission Aerobrake

by John Hairr, North Carolina State Univ, Raleigh, United States,
Eric Klang, North Carolina State Univ, Raleigh, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


A new area of civil engineering is emerging. This area will provide structures for outposts on the moon, resource development and exploration of Space. Spacecraft traveling at very high speeds will be needed to ferry astronaunts and equipment throughout the solar system. An example is the proposed manned mission to Mars. It is anticipated that the Mars spacecraft will leave from Earth after some assembly in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and arrive at Mars several months later. Significant weight savings could be produced by utilizing high energy aerobraking. An aerobrake would be used to fly through the Martian atmosphere dissipating energy through aerodynamic drag as opposed to using retro-rockets (fuel) to provide the force needed to brake the spacecraft. However, this technique will require a large amount of structural design as opposed to a propulsive braking technique. In this paper a design for a Mars mission aerobrake with rib-stringer construction coupled with a generic shell utilizing composite materials is shown to produce a feasible alternative to propulsive braking.

Subject Headings: Space exploration | Structural design | Aircraft and spacecraft | Space structures | Shell structures | Mars | Drag (fluid dynamics)

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