An Experimental Approach to Determine the Flight Dynamics of NASAs Mars Science Lab Capsule

Report No. ARL-TR-6790
Authors: Doug Petrick; Bradford Davis; Phil Peregino; Phil Hufnal
Date/Pages: January 2014; 46 pages
Abstract: This report details the innovative method used to experimentally capture the flight dynamics of the atmospheric entry shape of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) capsule. This approach uses a large-caliber high-energy gun to launch a saboted package containing a subscale MSL-shaped flight body that was highly instrumented with inertial, magnetic, and pressure sensors. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) was responsible for the design and development of instrumented MSL Pressure Transducer Module (PTM) packages and performed the free-flight experiments at ARL's Transonic Experimental Facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The capture, transmission, and analysis of onboard sensor data allowed the reconstruction of each trajectory and subsequent extraction of the aerodynamic coefficients. The techniques developed during this program were innovative, successfully meeting the goals of diverted flight, simulating the trajectory of the MSL capsule with instrumented MSL-PTM models, and recording flight data used for subsequent trajectory reconstruction. The method described in this report can be applied to various reentry body shapes.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: January 1, 2014