Supersonic retropropulsion on robotic Mars landers: Selected design trades

Aron A. Wolf, Connor Noyes, William Strauss, Joel Benito, Marcus Lobbia, John McCann, Barry Nakazono, Zachary R. Putnam, Christopher G. Lorenz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Many concepts for future robotic Mars lander missions require landing heavier payloads than those landed to date. Mars lander architectures to date have relied on a parachute to help slow the lander; however, the effectiveness of a parachute in the thin Martian atmosphere is diminished with heavier payloads unless the diameter of the parachute is increased or it is deployed at a higher Mach number, both of which are significant technical challenges. In addition, the parachute can be successfully deployed only within a specific Mach number and dynamic pressure range. Targeting the entry trajectory to hit this “Mach-Q box” imposes constraints on the entry ballistic coefficient, limiting it to ~ 150-200 kg/m^2. Eliminating the parachute from the design requires descent engine ignition at supersonic speeds (Supersonic Retropropulsion, or SRP). SRP increases the propellant requirement, but also allows entry ballistic coefficients of ~600 kg/m^2 or more, with the consequence of significantly increased entry mass and landed payload mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2018
EditorsPuneet Singla, Ryan M. Weisman, Belinda G. Marchand, Brandon A. Jones
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780877036579
StatePublished - 2018
EventAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2018 - Snowbird, United States
Duration: Aug 19 2018Aug 23 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


ConferenceAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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