HyperSizer Customer Paper

"Structural Design for a Neptune Aerocapture Mission" (11 pages)


Dyke, R. E., and Hrinda, G. A.


A multi-center study was conducted in 2003 to assess the feasibility of and technology requirements for using aerocapture to insert a scientific platform into orbit around Neptune. The aerocapture technique offers a potential method of greatly reducing orbiter mass and thus total spacecraft launch mass by minimizing the required propulsion system mass. This study involved the collaborative efforts of personnel from Langley Research Center (LaRC), Johnson Space Flight Center (JSFC), Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Ames Research Center (ARC), and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). One aspect of this effort was the structural design of the full spacecraft configuration, including the ellipsled aerocapture orbiter and the in-space solar electric propulsion (SEP) module/cruise stage. This paper will discuss the functional and structural requirements for each of these components, some of the design trades leading to the final configuration, the loading environments, and the analysis methods used to ensure structural integrity. It will also highlight the design and structural challenges faced while trying to integrate all the mission requirements. Component sizes, materials, construction methods and analytical results, including masses and natural frequencies, will be presented, showing the feasibility of the resulting design for use in a Neptune aerocapture mission. Lastly, results of a post-study structural mass optimization effort on the ellipsled will be discussed, showing potential mass savings and their influence on structural strength and stiffness