Magnetohydrodynamic aerobraking to enable landing of heavy payloads on Mars (2017–2020)
In the thin atmosphere of Mars, aerodynamic drag alone is not enough to land a spacecraft larger than 1 tonne. A human mission to Mars requires landing of payloads up to 80 tonne. The aim of this project is to experimentally explore how to increase vehicle deceleration by applying a magnetic field to the hot ionized gases which form around the vehicle. Interaction of the magnetic field with the ionized flow provides a path for dissipating kinetic energy and can reduce surface heating. The significance of this project is its potential to make Mars-return missions feasible by enabling greatly increased payloads. The project aims to deliver the first-ever evaluation of magnetohydrodynamic braking and heat mitigation at true flight conditions.