Measuring the Plunge to the Red Planet

Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

How you can tame that “seven minutes of terror” the NASA Perseverance Mars mission will expertise throughout its plunge by way of the Martian ambiance?

A part of the reply comes early within the deep dive to the Planet because of the Mars Entry Descent and Touchdown Instrumentation 2, or MEDLI2 for brief.

Credit score: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is predicted to pierce the skinny Martian ambiance on February 18 at round 12,500 mph, producing skyrocketing temperatures of two,370°F earlier than the spacecraft’s parachutes unfurl and aerodynamics sluggish the descent.

Ejection of ballast earlier than entry into Mars’ ambiance will offset the aeroshell’s middle of gravity and creates carry that’s used to information this {hardware} by way of roll management and autonomous steering.

MEDLI2 is -in into the Mars 2020’s warmth defend and backshell. That instrument suite is designed to evaluate the spacecraft’s aerothermal, thermal safety system and aerodynamic efficiency throughout entry, descent and touchdown (EDL). Furthermore, knowledge collected will assist enhance future Mars lander missions – together with these transporting to the floor.

MEDLI2 sensors are put in on the Mars 2020 warmth defend and again prior that can defend NASA’s Perseverance rover on its journey to the floor of Mars.
Credit score: NASA

Two-part aeroshell capsule

The Mars 2020 aeroshell measures about 15 ft (4.5 meters) in diameter, in comparison with simply lower than 13 ft (Four meters) for the Apollo capsules. Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado has designed and constructed each aeroshell flown by NASA to Mars – however none as giant because the Mars 2020 aeroshell.

The biconic-shaped backshell is half of the massive and complex two-part aeroshell capsule. It’s lined with tremendous mild ablator, a cork/silicone thermal safety system that was created by Lockheed Martin and originated with the NASA Viking Mars landers within the 1970s.

David Scholz was Lockheed Martin’s principal engineer for the Mars 2020 aeroshell. “The actual materials used on Mars 2020 known as SLA-561V, with the S-L-A standing for ‘tremendous mild ablator.’ It was developed for Viking all the way in which again within the 1970s and has been used on quite a few heatshields and backshells since then,” he mentioned.

Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sensor system

MEDLI2 sensors are put in on the Mars 2020 warmth defend and again shell. They are going to measure the surroundings surrounding the spacecraft and the efficiency of thermal safety system materials in the course of the atmospheric entry of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission.

There are three forms of sensors that comprise MEDLI2: thermocouples, warmth flux sensors and stress transducers. An information acquisition and sign conditioning unit (the Sensor Help Electronics Unit) information the heating and atmospheric stress skilled throughout entry and thru parachute deployment, and the harnessing between the sensors and the Sensor Help Electronics unit.

MEDLI2 builds on the primary MEDLI suite, which flew on NASA’s Curiosity rover mission that landed in August 2012. That instrumentation is once more being utilized to the warmth defend, however in a special configuration to raised measure the move traits.

This time instrumentation is being put in on the backshell as effectively to gather measurements of the heating and the floor stress to help in lowering the massive uncertainty utilized to the present predicted outcomes.

Future people to Mars expeditions will faucet into entry, descent, and touchdown knowledge collected earlier by robotic landers.
Credit score: Bob Sauls – XP4D/Discover Mars, Inc. (used with permission)

Ensuring about uncertainties

“Uncertainties in our means to mannequin and the efficiency of an entry automobile and the related thermal safety system imply that enormous margins (100% to 200%) should be included in our predictions to make sure the entry automobile can survive the worst case situations,” mentioned Henry Wright, MEDLI2 supervisor at NASA’s Langley Analysis Middle in Hampton, Virginia.

MEDLI2 is a Recreation Altering Growth venture led by NASA’s Area Know-how Mission Directorate with assist from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate.

The venture is managed at NASA Langley and was applied in partnership with NASA’s Ames Analysis Middle in California’s Silicon Valley and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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