Aerocapture Mission Concepts for Titan and Venus Exploration
Munk, Michelle Marie
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Aerocapture has been studied for decades as a mass-efficient way to deliver orbiting spacecraft to planets or moons that have atmospheres. NASA's In-Space Propulsion Technology (ISPT) program sponsored detailed studies of robotic exploration missions using Aerocapture at Titan and Venus, in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The results of those studies are recalled in this paper, in light of current Flagship mission studies to these same destinations. Aerocapture is of enormous benefit for both missions, enabling multiplicative factors on delivered mass, compared to chemical propulsion or aerobraking capture techniques. The scientific return is significantly enhanced when aerocapture is used. Updates to our knowledge about Titan and Venus since these studies were conducted, are also included.