Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Kira Abercromby

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Aerocapture is a method for spacecraft orbital insertion that is currently being assessed for use in interplanetary missions. This method would use a low periapsis hyperbolic entry orbit to induce drag allowing the spacecraft to slow down without the use of a propulsion system. This is accomplished by using a ballute (balloon parachute), which is released after the appropriate change in velocity necessary to achieve the desired planetary orbit. Once released, the ballute could deploy a secondary mission vehicle. A MATLAB simulation was run to understand the environment a secondary payload would undergo, such as heating and deceleration, as well as to study the buoyancy due to the ballute. The stability of the spacecraft during entry is also discussed.

The results showed that if the ballute can survive the aerocapture maneuver then it will be able to survive entry with a secondary payload. The deceleration from the separation of the primary and secondary payload will be large but it can be overcome. The stability of the vehicle is dependent on the location of the center of gravity. Buoyancy at Mars has little effect due to the low density of the atmosphere; at higher density atmospheres buoyancy does play a role in the payload descent. Results of the analysis show that a successful landing of a ballute with a secondary payload is possible.