Test Plan for the Technology Maturation of Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators

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Kelly, Jenny R.
Cruz, Juan R.
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Supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators (IADs) are drag devices intended to be deployed at high Mach numbers. In the application considered here they assist in the descent and landing of spacecraft on Mars. Although promising, present IAD technology is not yet sufficiently mature for use in the near future. This paper describes a technology maturation plan for tension cone IADs using subscale test articles to reduce development costs. As envisioned, the proposed test plan includes three phases: wind tunnel tests (subsonic), unpowered high-altitude flight tests (transonic), and powered high-altitude tests (supersonic). This test plan is based on a building block approach in which successful completion of each phase adds to the understanding of the behavior of IADs and reduces the risk of the subsequent, more expensive phases. By properly scaling the IADs, test articles of the same size and nearly the same construction can be used for all three phases. The final phase is a dynamically scaled flight test with IAD deployment at the same Mach number as the full-scale vehicle on Mars. Two full-scale example cases are presented: one for a single-stage system (15 m dia. IAD to subsonic retropropulsion), and another for a two-stage system (10.5 m dia. IAD to subsonic parachute). Using scale factors of 0.333 and 0.476 yield subscale test IADs of 5 m dia. The dynamically scaled powered flight test starts at Mach 4 and an altitude of 33.5 km. Existing balloons and rocket motors are shown to be adequate to meet the required test conditions.
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