Planetary Entry, Descent and Landing


Dr. Robert D. Braun
321-3 Knight Building


Required: Bate, Mueller and White, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, Dover, 1971.
Reference: Wiesel, Spaceflight Dynamics, 2nd edition, McGraw Hill, 1997.
Reference: Curtis, Orbital Mechanics for Engineering Students, Elsevier, 2005.

Course Website:



Course Overview:

Many planetary exploration missions rely on aeroassist technology to properly decelerate through a planetary atmosphere to a prescribed set of end conditions. Recent examples include the Galileo entry probe, the Mars Odyssey orbiter and the Phoenix Mars Scout lander. Design of aeroassist systems requires a synthesis of interplanetary navigation, atmospheric uncertainty, aerodynamics, heating, terminal descent and landing issues. This highly interactive course will address the state-of-the-art and future trends in aeroassist technology and is designed for program managers and non-specialists interested in gaining a working knowledge of planetary atmospheric flight. The course will broadly cover all aspects of aeroassist technology, with a focus on planetary entry, descent and landing. Material is based on that available in the public domain and comprises the basic theory of a semester-long graduate-level class in Planetary Entry, Descent and Landing, offered at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The course topics can be tailored for either a 2-day or 3-day presentation.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction, 0.5 hours
  2. Aeroassist mission classes and definitions, 4 hours
  3. Approach navigation, 0.5 hours
  4. Hypersonic aerodynamics, 1.5 hours
  5. Ballistic entry flight mechanics, 2 hours
  6. Lifting entry flight mechanics, 1 hour
  7. GN&C, 0.5 hours
  8. Verification and validation, 0.5 hours
  9. Importance of simulation, 1 hour
  10. Aerothermodynamics, 1.5 hours
  11. Thermal protection systems, 1 hour
  12. Aerodynamic decelerators, 2 hours
  13. Terminal descent propulsion, 1 hour
  14. Landing systems, 1 hour
  15. Application – Mars Lander Comparison, 1 hour
  16. Application – High Mass Mars Entry Systems, 1 hour
  17. Summary, 0.5 hours
  18. Sample Problems
  19. References

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