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SBIR/STTR

Inflatable Aerocapture Decelerators with Shape Morphing Trajectory Control, Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Inflatable Aerocapture Decelerators with Shape Morphing Trajectory Control, Phase II
The proposed research is focused on developing an aerocapture decelerator that is substantially lighter than other approaches by using lightweight, fiber-reinforced films in its construction and by being a smaller size (higher ballistic coefficient) than previously studied ballutes that operate without thermal protection. A second objective is to develop an innovative method of control for deployable aerocapture decelerators employing shape-morphing lift modulation. Aerocapture is strongly enhancing for planetary exploration because the decelerator mass is less than the fuel mass needed for the same delta-V, and therefore results in a higher payload fraction in orbit. Inflatable drag devices are a promising type of aerocapture decelerator because (1) they are lighter than conventional fixed-geometry aeroshells, and (2) they can be much larger than the interior of a launch fairing and thus enable heavier spacecraft. This aerocapture technology also applies to supersonic decelerators for Entry, Descent and Landing Systems (EDLS) and to other systems requiring supersonic deceleration and stabilization. Trajectory control by shape-morphing lift modulation also enhances EDLS as part of precision guided landing capability. The anticipated Phase II results include the design, manufacture and testing of a full-scale, flight-weight inflatable torus, advancing the key inflatable technology for aerocapture decelerators to TRL 4. More »

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