Dual-use Lifting Ballute

Global Aerospace Corporation has begun to develop a conceptual design of a dual-use lifting ballute system for Mars orbit capture and entry. The specific innovations of system are:Global Aerospace Corporation has begun to develop a conceptual design of a dual-use lifting ballute system for Mars orbit capture and entry. The specific innovations of system are:

  • Dual-use ballute for both orbit capture and entry for high-mass Mars missions
  • Lifting ballute to reduce ballute system mass, heating and g-loads as compared with other inflatable decelerator concepts
  • Lift-control for trajectory flexibility

This technology innovation provides an integrated concept for high-mass Mars orbit capture and entry that could provide significant mass-savings over other candidate systems and be extended for use at Earth and other planets with atmospheres. Current mission plans for human Mars exploration primarily rely on massive propulsion systems and heavily heat-shielded aeroshells for orbit insertion, entry, descent, and landing of crew and cargo vehicles. The proposed lightweight ballute concept will enable high-altitude deceleration and reduce g-loads for both capture and entry phases, minimizing the thermal protection and structural requirements of the deceleration system.  Adding lift-control to a toroidal ballute and extending its use from orbit capture to entry could have a very significant impact on the required initial mass in low-Earth orbit (IMLEO) and on total mission cost. Recent experimental work on hypersonic and supersonic ballute decelerators in Japan suggests that a dual-use, lifting ballute system may be feasible and could offer significant advantages to Mars exploration and Earth-return missions and possibly enable robotic aeroassist missions to the outer planets.

The figure below illustrates one concept for a dual-use lifting ballute performing aerocapture at Mars. In this figure, the lift is directed toward the nadir to counteract centrifugal forces to stay within the atmosphere longer. In aerocapture, lift allows the use of a smaller ballute that experiences lower temperatures and g-loads.Key features of this dual-use ballute system design include:

  • Lightweight, towed, toroidal ballute with integrated, high-strength restraining net,
  • Ballute system designed for dual-use – i.e. orbit capture at Mars and Mars entry,
  • Controlled lift to reduce system mass, heating and g-loads,
  • Ballute envelope inflation and pressure maintenance system to control envelope between orbit and entry, and
  • Lightweight, low temperature thermal protection systems on the lander vehicle.
Dual-use ballute performing aerocapture at Mars
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