Small Satellite-Sized Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators for Interplanetary Science Missions

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the Small Satellite Conference


63 (1-9)

Conference Name

Small Satellite Conference, 6-11 August, 2022, Logan, Utah


To make the most of ridesharing opportunities, small satellite (SmallSat) mission designers endeavor to pack as much payload into a SmallSat-class form factor as possible. The mass and volume constraints of this smaller vehicle class present a challenge for interplanetary mission sets that require a means of achieving orbit insertion at their destination of interest. For a fully propulsive orbit insertion design, this may translate to the propellant mass being a significant fraction of the overall vehicle mass and prolonged insertion time. Aerocapture is a single quick maneuver that can significantly reduce the required propellant mass for orbit insertion. Because aerocapture uses a planet’s atmosphere to achieve the necessary change in velocity, a protective aeroshell is needed. The constraints imposed on secondary payloads render traditional rigid aeroshells mass and space prohibitive for the SmallSat class of vehicles; thus, warranting consideration of deployable designs that can be stowed compactly until needed for atmospheric entry. The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) is a deployable aeroshell that leverages inflatable toroids to achieve the large drag area needed for aerodynamic deceleration. While the technology is currently being analyzed for Mars human-scale missions, it has the potential applicability for interplanetary SmallSat-scale missions as well.

This paper highlights a study conducted during an internship at NASA Langley Research Center to investigate the feasibility of using a scaled-down HIAD design in SmallSat aerocapture missions. Several scaling methodologies are investigated including use of parametric models and direct computer-aided design (CAD) model scaling. Candidate HIAD configurations that conform to secondary payload adapter requirements are identified. The Program to Optimize Simulated Trajectories II (POST2) is utilized to conduct orbit insertion performance and trajectory sensitivity studies using the candidate configurations at Earth, Venus, and Mars. The results of the study indicate that multiple SmallSat-sized HIAD designs, targeting a range of SmallSat payload classes, are feasible for planetary aerocapture missions to Mars and Venus as well as Earth-based aerocapture missions.


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Original Publication Citation

Mann, S. C., Bowes, A., Deshmukh, R. G., & Dutta, S. (2022). Small satellite-sized hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators for interplanetary science missions. Proceedings of the Small Satellite Conference, Weekend Session 3: Science/Mission Payloads - Research & Academia I. 63 https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/smallsat/2022/all2022/63/