Summary of Ultralightweight Ballute Technology Advances
Miller, Kevin L.
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Ultralightweight ballutes offer the potential to provide the deceleration for entry and aerocapture missions at a fraction of the mass of traditional methods. A team consisting of Ball Aerospace, ILC Dover, NASA Langley, NASA JSC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory worked to address technical issues associated with ultralightweight ballutes for aerocapture missions under funding provided by the In-Space Propulsion Office at NASA MSFC. Significant technology advances have been made in the areas of ballute materials, aerothermal analysis, trajectory control, aeroelastic modeling, hypersonic test, and overall ballute system design processes. The results show that ultralightweight ballutes provide excellent performance and packaging benefits aerocapture, de-orbit, entry, descent, and landing missions to planetary bodies with a sensible atmosphere. This paper discusses ultralightweight ballutes, the technology advances made by the team, and applicability of the technology to planetary probe missions.