A Comprehensive Entry, Descent, Landing, and Locomotion (EDLL) Vehicle for Planetary Exploration

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Virginia Tech

The 2012 Decadal Survey has stated that there is a critical role for a Venus In-situ Explore (VISE) missions to a variety of important sites, specifically the Tessera terrain. This work aims to answer the Decadal Survey's call by developing a new comprehensive Entry, Descent, Landing, and Locomotion (EDLL) vehicle for in-situ exploration of Venus, especially in the Tessera regions.

TANDEM, the Tension Adjustable Network for Deploying Entry Membrane, is a new planetary probe concept in which all of EDLL is achieved by a single multifunctional tensegrity structure. The concept uses same fundamental concept as the ADEPT (Adaptable Deployable Entry and Placement Technology) deployable heat shield but replaces the standard internal structure with the structure from the tensegrity-actuated rover to provide a combined aeroshell and rover design. The tensegrity system implemented by TANDEM reduces the mass of the overall system while enabling surface locomotion and mitigating risk associated with landing in the rough terrain of Venus's Tessera regions, which is otherwise nearly inaccessible to surface missions.

TANDEM was compared to other state-of-the-art lander designs for an in-situ mission to Venus. It was shown that TANDEM provides the same scientific experimentation capabilities that were proposed for the VITaL mission, with a combined mass reduction for the aeroshell and lander of 52% (1445 kg), while eliminating the identified risks associated with entry loads and very rough terrain. Additionally, TANDEM provides locomotion when on the surface as well as a host of other maneuvers during entry and descent, which was not present in the VITaL design. Based on its unique multifunctional infrastructure and excellent crashworthiness for impact on rough surfaces, TANDEM presents a robust system to address some of the Decadal Survey's most pressing questions about Venus.

Entry Descent Landing (EDL), Tensegrity, Venus Rover, Deployable Heat Shield