Feasibility study of aerocapture at mars with an innovative deployable heat shield

Giorgio Isoletta, Michele Grassi, Elena Fantino, David de la Torre Sangrà, Jesús Peláez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Performing orbital insertion around Mars using aerocapture instead of a propulsive orbit insertion maneuver allows the saving of resources and/or the increase of the payload mass fraction. Aerocapture has never been employed to date because of the high uncertainties in the parameters from which it depends, mainly related to atmospheric density modeling and navigation errors. The purpose of this work is to investigate the feasibility of aerocapture at Mars with an innovative deployable drag device, whose aperture can be modulated in flight, and to assess the effects of the main uncertainties on the success of the maneuver. This paper starts with the presentation of a parametric bidimensional analysis of the effectiveness of aerocapture, for which a wide range of uncertainty levels in the atmospheric density and the ballistic coefficient are considered. Then, an application to a real mission scenario is carried out, including the error of the targeting maneuver performed at the limit of the sphere of influence of the planet. The analyses show the strong influence of the uncertainties in the atmospheric density and the ballistic coefficient, which significantly narrow the solution space and limit its continuity. However, viable solutions for aerocapture can still be identified, even in the worst conditions.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1752-1760
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


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