Flight test of a supersonic decelerator on Earth to simulate a Mars entry

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A systems analysis is presented for simulation of the descent of a decelerator (parachute) and spacecraft for entry through the atmosphere of the planet Mars by a flight test in the Earth's atmosphere. Engineering atmosphere models for Mars are defined and based on these models requirements for parachutes to be used for Mars entry are developed. Appropriate parachute model and scaling laws for Earth simulation of Mars performance are developed. A disk-gap-band parachute was selected for a flight test on Earth to simulate a mission profile of a decelerator for a planetary mission to Mars.

The parachute is sized for a defined mission profile and accepted empirical methods are used to perform the design analysis of the parachute. A description of the flight test spacecraft system and the performance of the parachute during the full scale flight test is presented. The parachute sustained considerable damage during the test. The results of the Earth flight test are used to discuss predicted performance for an identically damaged parachute on Mars.