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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

A Plasma Aerocapture and Entry System for Manned Missions and Planetary Deep Space Orbiters

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Plasma Magnetoshell works like a ballute, where plasma takes the place of inflated fabric. The primary drag-inducing interaction between the magnetically confined plasma ions and the incoming neutral atmospheric particles is that of charge exchange.

The Plasma Magnetoshell is based on demonstrated experimental results and the successful implementation would dramatically decrease mission risk, launch cost, mass, and overall radiation exposure. The Plasma Magnetoshell is a high-Beta (the ratio of plasma to magnetic field energy density) dipole plasma configuration which would initially be populated with ambient atmospheric gases. This plasma is formed, sustained, and expanded with an electrodeless Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF), which has been shown in previous experiments to generate the required, fully ionized, high temperature magnetized plasma. RMF plasma formation induces large currents in the plasma that inflate and maintain the large-scale magnetic structure. The primary drag-inducing interaction between the magnetically confined plasma ions and the incoming neutral atmospheric particles is that of charge exchange, which has the largest cross section. After a charge exchange, the now magnetized atmospheric ion reacts its directional momentum (in the frame of the spacecraft) onto the magnet via field line bending and stretching.

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