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Aerobraking Mollie Devoe Wells College


Agenda What is Aerobraking? How Aerobraking works Aerobraking Simulation Results Program’s future

Setting the Stage: 

Setting the Stage


What is Aerobraking? Aerobraking is a technique to transform an elliptical orbit into a circular orbit Aerobraking exploits a planets atmosphere to perform a controlled drag maneuver.


How Aerobraking Works Atmospheric molecules strike the spacecraft transferring energy and momentum. The momentum transfer creates drag which aerobrakes the spacecraft.


Types of Aerobraking Single-Pass Multi-Pass


Phase 1: Walk-in Propulsive maneuvers gradually drop the spacecraft’s periapsis This allows evaluation of the vehicle’s response to the new environment in gradually increasing levels


Phase 2: Main Phase A series of small propulsive maneuvers keep periapsis in control corridor


Phase 3: Endgame Desired circular orbit is met Propulsive maneuvers raise periapsis out of atmosphere to stop aerobraking

Project Goals: 

Project Goals To understand orbital mechanics -calculate an orbit from initial conditions -understand the effects of drag Build a program that simulates aerobraking

About the Program: 

About the Program Application parameters -planet mass, planet radius, spacecraft mass, time lapse… Current position -x, y, r, theta, velocity, net force... Updates current position, including total energy and angular momentum

Two Dimensional Integration: 

Two Dimensional Integration Choose coordinate system -Origin at planet’s center Position is a function of x and y:


Velocity at Specific Position

Therefore the New Position After dt is...: 

Therefore the New Position After dt is... In x direction:

What About the Change in Velocity?: 

What About the Change in Velocity?

The New Velocity After dt is...: 

The New Velocity After dt is...

Running the Program: 

Running the Program Simulations run with the following initial velocities: - 0 m/s - 1200 m/s - 1250 m/s - 1275 m/s - 1280 m/s - 1300 m/s


A Closer Look...


The Program’s Future Run more simulations to gain a better understanding of drag Three dimensional integration Apply to other planets


Acknowledgments Professor Scott Heinekamp Professor Carol Shilepsky Frank Lacomb

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