A comparison of aerobraking and aerocapture vehicles for interplanetary missionsSeveral design features for employing aerobraking and aerocapture techniques on interplanetary spacecraft are described. Recent studies have identified silica fabrics mounted on carbon composite ribs as suitable aerobraking spacecraft shield materials. Aerocapture is best achieved with a biconic aeroshell design, with the aeroshell supported by Al honeycomb panels and allowing primitive aerodynamic maneuverability. The aeroshell would be covered with thermal protection materials capable of elevated temperatures of magnitudes that are a function of the expected atmospheric density, the surface area, the entry speed, spacecraft mass and maneuverability. Both technologies are concluded ready for implementation and development costs are estimated for various missions, showing that aerocapture will provide for greater payload masses, except for a Jupiter mission.
Hoffman, S. (Science Applications International Corp. Schaumburg, IL, United States)