Aero-Assisted Spacecraft Missions Using Hypersonic Waverider Aeroshells

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Knittel, Jeremy
Yu, Kenneth
This work examines the use of high-lift, low drag vehicles which perform orbital transfers within a planet’s atmosphere to reduce propulsive requirements. For the foreseeable future, spacecraft mission design will include the objective of limiting the mass of fuel required. One means of accomplishing this is using aerodynamics as a supplemental force, with what is termed an aero-assist maneuver. Further, the use of a lifting body enables a mission designer to explore candidate trajectory types wholly unavailable to non-lifting analogs. Examples include missions to outer planets by way of an aero-gravity assist, aero-assisted plane change, aero-capture, and steady atmospheric periapsis probing missions. Engineering level models are created in order to simulate both atmospheric and extra-atmospheric space flight. Each mission is parameterized using discrete variables which control multiple areas of design. This work combines the areas of hypersonic aerodynamics, re-entry aerothermodynamics, spacecraft orbital mechanics, and vehicle shape optimization. In particular, emphasis is given to the parametric design of vehicles known as “waveriders” which are inversely designed from known shock flowfields. An entirely novel means of generating a class of waveriders known as “starbodies” is presented. A complete analysis is performed of asymmetric starbody forms and compared to a better understood parameterization, “osculating cone” waveriders. This analysis includes characterization of stability behavior, a critical discipline within hypersonic flight. It is shown that asymmetric starbodies have significant stability improvement with only a 10% reduction in the lift-to-drag ratio. By combining the optimization of both the shape of the vehicle and the trajectory it flies, much is learned about the benefit that can be expected from lifting aero-assist missions. While previous studies have conceptually proven the viability, this work provides thorough quantification of the optimized outcome. In examining an aero-capture of Mars, it was found that with a lifting body, the increased maneuverability can allow completion of multiple mission objectives along with the aero-capture, such as atmospheric profiling or up to 80 degrees of orbital plane change. Completing a combined orbital plane change and aero-capture might save as much as 4.5 km/s of velocity increment while increasing the feasible entry corridor by an order of magnitude. Analyzing a higher energy mission type, a database of maximum aero-gravity assist performance is developed at Mars, Earth and Venus. Finally, a methodology is presented for designing end-toend interplanetary missions using aero-gravity assists. As a means of demonstrating the method, promising trajectories are propagated which reduce the time of flight of an interstellar probe mission by up to 50%.