Mars Entry Atmospheric Data System (MEADS) Requirements and Design for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)

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Novak, Frank
Hutchinson, Mark
Mitchell, Michael
Munk, Michelle Marie
Parker, Peter
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Each vehicle that lands on Mars provides a unique opportunity to study the atmospheric entry environment. Taking measurements of this environment will enable a better understanding of vehicle performance and design margins. Future vehicles will be able to take advantage of this improved knowledge in the forms of lower risk and possibly lower mass. The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation (MEDLI) experiment will measure pressure and temperature on the protective heat shield during the MSL entry. The pressure distribution and Martian atmospheric data measurements are required to accurately determine the vehicle attitude (angles of attack and sideslip), and the dynamic pressure on the windward surface of the MSL heat shield. The pressure measurements are also used to provide Martian environment data and support computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code validation. This paper will focus on the pressure measurement system, known as the Mars Entry Atmospheric Data System (MEADS), which consists of a flush orifice configuration connected by tubing to a specially ranged and selected pressure transducer and a custom-built signal conditioner, known as the Signal Support Electronics (SSE). The overall measurement requirements demand that the pressure measurement system be rugged and provide high rate, high accuracy output with small input power requirements, and the MEADS design meets those requirements. The pressure measurement system is being flight qualified using a protoflight approach, and will go through rigorous testing that consists of ambient and thermal calibrations, and environmental tests consisting of static acceleration, vibration, and thermal vacuum. The MEADS design approach, manufacturing experiences, and testing results will be discussed. As the system prepares for delivery in summer 2008, a key goal of the project is to serve as a pathfinder, such that every entry system of the future will be instrumented and will improve our knowledge of the critical entry environment.
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