Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI explores spacecraft motion in the Mars atmosphere

6 February 2019


Temperature field of the moving ExoMars space module for Mach number 8

Is there life on Mars? The Earth people have been interested in this question from the earliest times. The “Martian fever” has been running high since the end of the XIX century.

Wide dry canals and braided valleys on the surface of the planet suggest that there once were rivers and rains, and the climate was humid and warm. There is still a probability to find the traces of biological life, and this is one of the scientific objectives of a joint project of Russian scientists and the European Space Agency “ExoMars.”

Within this program it is planned to launch a space complex “ExoMars” in 2020. It consists of the Enter, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module and adapter with the separation system. The Landing (Descent) Module must deliver to the surface of the Red Planet the Rover from the European Space Agency and the Russian-built landing surface platform with a set of scientific instruments. Scientists of the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI, a member of the National Research Center “Zhukovsky Institute”) are interested in this task. For example, TsAGI young specialists initiated an independent numerical study for the Descent Module’s motion in Mars atmosphere and thermal loads on it at that time.

There was studied in particular the ablation process — the Module’ s protection cover meting and evaporation under the influence of heat flow, which effectively reduces the overheating of the structural elements. Using the developed in TsAGI copyright program code there was created the simplest Martian atmosphere and the trajectory of the Landing Module at a speed of 7-8 Mach. The ablation at that case was simulated by gas blowing out of the frontal surface of the Module. “It was important for us to see it all in terms of laminar-turbulent transition,” said Senior Scientific Researcher of TsAGI’s Department for Aerothermodynamics Testing of Hypersonic Aircraft and Rocket-and-Space Equipment, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Science, Natalia Palchekovskaya. “When we reduce the heat flow by ablation, because of the Module’s high surface evaporation we can get an unsteady-state boundary layer, which could lead to turbulence. The essence of the study is to maintain a balance when the spacecraft is not burnt up in the Martian atmosphere and the trajectory is not broken and it successfully reaches the Red Planet and performs its mission.”

There have been received partial results at the moment. They will enable numerically simulate the real conditions of flow for the Descent Module in the Martian atmosphere at small angles of attack up to 10 degrees. The study will continue this year.

ExoMars is a joint project of the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos. Under the ExoMars-2016 program where was already launched the Trace Gas Orbiter into Mars orbit and released Schiaparelli EDM lander. The second phase of the project is scheduled to launch in 2020 and to deliver to the Martian surface the European Space Agency Rover and the Russian surface platform, which will set to work on the surface of the Red Planet as a long-life autonomous research station.

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