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Mars Science Laboratory: Entry, Descent, and Landing System PerformanceIn 2010, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will pioneer the next generation of robotic Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) systems, by delivering the largest and most capable rover to date to the surface of Mars. To do so, MSL will fly a guided lifting entry at a lift-to-drag ratio in excess of that ever flown at Mars, deploy the largest parachute ever at Mars, and perform a novel Sky Crane maneuver. Through improved altitude capability, increased latitude coverage, and more accurate payload delivery, MSL is allowing the science community to consider the exploration of previously inaccessible regions of the planet. The MSL EDL system is a new EDL architecture based on Viking heritage technologies and designed to meet the challenges of landing increasing massive payloads on Mars. In accordance with level-1 requirements, the MSL EDL system is being designed to land an 850 kg rover to altitudes as high as 1 km above the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter defined areoid within 10 km of the desired landing site. Accordingly, MSL will enter the largest entry mass, fly the largest 70 degree sphere-cone aeroshell, generate the largest hypersonic lift-to-drag ratio, and deploy the largest Disk-Gap-Band supersonic parachute of any previous mission to Mars. Major EDL events include a hypersonic guided entry, supersonic parachute deploy and inflation, subsonic heatshield jettison, terminal descent sensor acquisition, powered descent initiation, sky crane terminal descent, rover touchdown detection, and descent stage flyaway. Key performance metrics, derived from level-1 requirements and tracked by the EDL design team to indicate performance capability and timeline margins, include altitude and range at parachute deploy, time on radar, and propellant use. The MSL EDL system, which will continue to develop over the next three years, will enable a notable extension in the advancement of Mars surface science by delivering more science capability than ever before to the surface of Mars. This paper describes the current MSL EDL system performance as predicted by end-to-end EDL simulations, highlights the sensitivity of this baseline performance to several key environmental assumptions, and discusses some of the challenges faced in delivering such an unprecedented rover payload to the surface of Mars.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Way, David W.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Powell, Richard W.
(Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. Hampton, VA, United States)
Chen, Allen
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Steltzner, Adam D.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
San Martin, Alejandro M.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Burkhart, Paul D.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
mendeck, Gavin F.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
March 3, 2006
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Paper No. 1467
Meeting Information
2007 IEEE Aerospace Conference(Big Sky, MT)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 857464.02.07.07
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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